The hedgecutting and gorse burning ban will come into effect this week. As of March 1 hedgecutting and gorse burning are prohibited.

Currently proposed changes to the Heritage Bill are making their way through the Seanad which allow for managed hedgecutting and burning at certain times within the existing closed period on a pilot two-year basis.

These proposed changes are not in force this year so farmers must comply with the current law.

Under the current law, Section 40 of the Wildlife Acts 1976, as amended, prohibits the cutting, grubbing, burning or destruction of vegetation, with certain strict exemptions, from March 1 to August 31.

Speaking in the Seanad on the issue earlier this year, the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys, said that through this proposed legislation she is trying to allow managed hedgecutting within the closed period on a pilot basis for two years.

“There has been repeated calls for this closed period to amended and under the proposal managed hedgecutting would be allowed in August and controlled burning in March, under strict criteria.

“I’m trying to strike a balance here. Hedgerows and scrubs are important wildlife and I also want to collect more information on this during this pilot period.

“I don’t believe the current system is effective enough and these changes could help.”

The changes to the legislation have been met with mixed reaction. Environmental groups have come out against the changes and introduced a petition calling for no change, while farming groups have come out in favour of the proposed changes.