No to More Slash and Burn

The Irish Wildlife Trust, Birdwatch Ireland, An Taisce, and the Hedge Laying Association of Ireland highlight that the proposed changes to Section 40 of the Wildlife Act contained in the Heritage Bill 2016 are unjustified and damaging to natural heritage.

News: from the Seanad debate on Wednesday 09th

Thanks to everone who signed the petition and took the time to contact senators voiceing concerns over the Heritage Bill 2016. We had a tremendous response to this call and the wave of communication to senators was acknowledged in the debate. In the Seanad chamber our campaign's efforts paid off as numerous senators from all political parties, except Fine Gael, stood up to voice concerns about section 8 of the Bill and question the Minister about the Bill's integrity. The debate was so intense that the Seanad ran out of the allotted time and the debate was suspended till a future date. With this small success Minister Humphreys has not yet managed to push this destructive Bill through and the Wildlife Act lives to see another day intact. But for how long? The Minister will consider the amendments and questions put forward and return to the Seanad in the near future with clarifications, and when she does we need to be watching. We will keep you informed of the developments and continue to strive to keep our Wildlife Act intact for the protection of the biodiversity dependent on our uplands and hedgerows.

 

The Campaign Team would like to sincerely thank Senator Grace OSullivan (Green Party) and Senator Alice Mary Higgins (IND) and their staff for their support for our position, for proposing constructive amendments (ie. to collect data first before any changes are made, to change the Roads Act for any road safety concerns) and for their astuteness, eloquence and passion when debating on wednesday.

 

We are asking you to write or email Fianna Fail TDs, Seanators & Councillors to highlight your concerns about this Bill’s impact on the Wildlife Act. Our only hope is if Senators support the amendments we will be proposing which are designed to remove or alter Part 3 Section 8 of Heritage Bill 2016 and so prevent these destructive changes to the Wildlife Act.

Issues with Part 3 Section 8 of Heritage Bill 2016 (changing Wildlife Act Section 40)

The Minister is proposing a two-year pilot law with a rollover clause, which would allow cutting, destroying and removal of hedgerows in August and burning in the uplands in March. During these month birds are trying to lay eggs and raise chicks and other wildlife such as bees and hedgehogs are still dependent on these ecosystems.

Strong data already exists showing that birds are nesting during August and March, however there is a severe lack of scientific data to suggest that these changes to the Wildlife Act would not have a disastrous effect on wildlife, including wild bees and threatened birds such as yellowhammer and curlew. Significant research over at least 3 years would be needed before the proposed changes can be safely made introduced.

In addition, a reason this Bill has been proposed is to allow for cutting of hedgerows in August for road safety reason but there already exists legal exemptions to the Wildlife Act to allow cutting where there are road safety issues. 

In summary, the changes to the Wildlife Act proposed in the Part 3 Section 8 Heritage Bill 2016 are not supported by scientific data and do not improve the laws on road safety.  

Here is a link to our 31 reason why hedgecutting in August is very bad idea.

TIPS for contacting Senators, TDs & Councillors

·      Keep your letter / email brief 2 to 3 paragraphs

·      Express your concerns about the Bill (eg no scientific basis or it is in contravention of Irish and EU plans for greening Irish agriculture and tourism etc)

·      Mention our petition representing over 25,000 other people’s concerns

·      Stress the ecological importance of hedgerows and uplands for species that are already under great stress

·      Why not finish on a positive note expressing that what is needed is a real heritage bill, backed up by good Irish data

Facts to Remember

1. Section 40 of the Wildlife Act already includes provisions to allow local authorities to cut where there are road safety issues.

2. Yellowhammer, Linnet and Greenfinch nest well into September and therefore hedgecutting could justifiably be restricted until mid-September.

3.Curlew and other upland breeding birds will have begun their nesting activities in March and will therefore be impacted by these changes.

4. Other wildlife which will be impacted include hedgehogs, bees, butterflies and other invertebrates which rely on hedgerow flowers for food.

5. There are already 6 months of the year when landowners can cut hedgerows and burn vegetation. Adding one more month could push some Red-listed species over the edge towards extinction in Ireland (e.g. Yellowhammer, Curlew).

6. Further research is needed into the effect on wildife of burning uplands in March and cutting hedgerows in August before these changes can be safely put in place.