A ban on hedge-cutting will come into effect from March 1st to August 31st.
Section 40 of the Wildlife Act 1976, as amended by Section 46 of the 2000 Amendment Act, prohibits the cutting, grubbing, burning or destruction of vegetation, with certain strict exemptions from the period specified.
The National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of Housing Local Government and Housing issued a reminder to the public in a statement on Tuesday, February 23rd.
A spokesperson stressed that “the minister has no discretion to change these dates”.
“There is provision in the legislation for some restricted exemptions from the prohibition during the closed period – e.g. for works undertaken in the ordinary course of agriculture or forestry, for public health and safety reasons, including road safety, the destruction of noxious weeds, for the clearance of vegetation in the course of road and other development works or the development of sites for building works.”
Hedge cutting and the clearance of vegetation is restricted to the 6-month period, from September to February, but there are exceptions.
“It is important to point out that the legislation allows both landowners and public authorities to address hedges for road safety reasons at any time of the year.”
In Ireland, where there is a relatively low cover of native woodland, hedges are of exceptional importance in providing food and shelter and habitats and corridors for maintaining wildlife diversity, the department stated.
Wrens, dunnocks, robins, thrushes, and willow warblers, as well as many rarer species, depend greatly on hedgerow habitats.
In general, untrimmed, thorned hedgerows containing shrubs such as blackthorn, whitethorn, holly, briars, and brambles are favoured by birds as they provide food, shelter, nesting places and protection from predators during the breeding season.
The news comes following the FCI’s request for the department to grant an extension to the current open working period for the operation of hedge maintenance machinery on farms by 16 days this spring.
The association made the call in response to a “very prolonged” period of heavy rain during the month of January.
In a statement, the association stated that work to be carried out during this proposed extension period until March 17th, 2021, can be restricted solely to flail machines and exclude the use of mulchers and/or saw blades during this proposed extension period.
FCI stated that the weather conditions we have experienced in Ireland this year serve to confirm why the current closed period deadlines are “no longer practical”.