Farmers who illegally burn land in the closed period risk prosecution

Farmers who illegally burn land in the closed period risk prosecution, according to a warning issued by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed.

If agricultural and eligible forestry land is burnt during the closed period – between March 1 and August 31 – that land will not be eligible for payment under the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and other area-based schemes, the minister added.

Inclusion of illegally burnt land in a 2018 BPS application may result in a reduced payment and penalties under this scheme and the other area-based schemes – such as the Areas of Natural Constraints Scheme.

As well as this, farmers were warned that illegal burning can also render neighbours’ land ineligible for payment.

If it is identified that lands were burnt during the closed period, such land may be inspected by officials from the department.

Concluding, Minister Creed said: “Both farmers and the wider public – whether it be at work or in enjoying the countryside – should, at this time of year, be mindful of the damage caused by burning and should take appropriate care.”

The burning of vegetation is controlled by the Wildlife Acts. It is an offence under Section 40 of the Wildlife Act, 1976 (amended by Section 46 of the Wildlife Act, 2000) to burn during the closed period any vegetation growing on any land not then cultivated.

Individuals who are found to burn vegetation within that prohibited period are liable to prosecution by An Garda Siochana or by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).

Proposed changes

The closed period for gorse burning also applies to hedge-cutting.

Proposed amendments to the Heritage Bill 2016 could see the timeframes for hedge-cutting and gorse burning being extended under strict conditions.

The bill has completed its passage through Seanad Eireann and has completed ‘Second Stage’ in Dail Eireann.

A date for ‘Committee Stage’ in the Dail is awaited. In the meantime, the existing provisions relating to Section 40 of the Wildlife Acts remain in force.