Fires on rural lands – particularly in counties Kerry, Laois and Wicklow – have been noted since the closing date of March 1, by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, which has warned that such lands are now no longer eligible for Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) payments.

The department noted that it can identify burnt lands by means of satellite imagery.

“Analysis of the relevant imagery indicates that at least 130ha has been burnt in these counties since March 1,” a spokesperson for the department said.

The terms and conditions for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and other area-based schemes makes clear that such lands are ineligible for payment.

“Where land has been burned between March 1 and August 31, it is not in a state suitable for grazing or cultivation and therefore is not eligible for the remainder of the year”.

The department said it will contact those applicants who apply on burnt lands in 2021, “informing them of the consequence of the burning on their eligible area for payment”.

The department outlined that it will also shortly commence ground inspections in areas identified through satellite imagery to carry out further checks in these areas.

According to the authority, it is an offence under Section 40 of the Wildlife Act, 1976 (amended by Section 46 of the Wildlife Act, 2000) to burn, from March 1 to August 31 in any year, 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 Síochána or by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).