Minister for Heritage Malcolm Noonan has called on the public to be vigilant ahead of the hedge-cutting ban which kicks in from 1 March.

Vegetation, such as hedgerows and scrub, provides a home and a vital habitat for birds and wildlife, especially during breeding and nesting season.

Damage to hedgerows and illegal and uncontrolled fires are some of the activities that can cause harm to nature and wildlife at the onset of the nesting and breeding season.

Minister Noonan said: “Our relatively low cover of native woodland means that our hedgerows are critical infrastructure for nature.

"These habitats provide food to eat, places to nest and even corridors for many forms of wildlife to move through the landscape, in particular our nesting birds. Untrimmed, thorny hedgerows are favoured by birds, as they provide cover from predators."


Legislation prohibits the cutting, grubbing, burning or other destruction of “vegetation growing in any hedge or ditch” between 1 March and 31 August.

This, he said, is to protect bird life during the nesting season, to help prevent forest fires, to protect vegetation and wildlife habitats at an important time for breeding and growth and to provide food for animals and birds.

There are very limited exemptions, for example, for health and safety reasons. There is no exemption for the burning of vegetation during this period.

Breaches of Section 40 of the Wildlife Act constitute a wildlife crime and will result in prosecution.

In addition to the prosecution, the breach will be cross-reported to the Department of Agriculture and a sanction may be applied under conditionality to the farmer's area-based payments.

Minister Noonan also called on the public to avoid lighting fires in nature settings.

“These illegal fires put communities, public and private properties at risk, they put our emergency services under pressure and can cause irreparable damage to our natural heritage. The NPWS is ready to respond in the months ahead."


"Aerial surveillance is a highly effective tool to prevent the outbreak of fire in our national parks and nature reserves, and our 'eyes in the sky’ patrols will be busy – day and night – over the coming weeks and months.

"Initially, we will concentrate mainly on the west coast and south to Cork and Kerry, with close surveillance on Killarney National Park and our nature reserves in the west and south. We will also cover the Slieve Blooms and the Wicklow and Dublin Mountains," he added.

Director general of the NPWS Niall Ó Donnchú added that they are now using nationwide air cover in early detection and to assist in the prosecution of illegal burning.

"We have strengthened our approach to wildlife crime, formalised our co-operation with An Garda Siochána and enhanced capacity for fire prevention through planning, specialist training, additional equipment, staff on the ground, public vigilance, volunteering and fire mapping data.

"This means that we are ready to respond quickly in the event of fire in our parks and nature reserves and our investigative capacity is significantly enhanced," he said.