The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage is reminding people that the cutting, grubbing, burning or destruction of vegetation is banned from March 1 to August 31, with certain strict exemptions.
The NPWS adds that the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien has no discretion to change these dates.
There is provision in the legislation for some restricted exemptions from the prohibition during the closed period.
- Works undertaken in the ordinary course of agriculture or forestry;
- For public health and safety reasons, including road safety;
- The destruction of noxious weeds;
- Clearance of vegetation in the course of road and other development works;
- The development of sites for building works.
While generally, hedge cutting and the clearance of vegetation is restricted to the six-month period from September to February, legislation allows both landowners and public authorities to address hedges for road safety reasons at any time of the year.
They provide food and shelter and habitats and corridors for maintaining wildlife diversity, particularly for birds, but also for other fauna and for wild plants.
Wrens, dunnocks, robins, thrushes and willow warblers as well as more rare species depend greatly on hedgerow habitats.
According to the NPWS, 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.
There have already been calls to extend the current open period for the operation of hedge maintenance machinery by 16 days.
The Association of Farm and Forestry Contractors in Ireland (FCI) is asking that the period be extended out to March 17 to take account of a prolonged period of heavy rain during January.