The ICMSA is proposing what it says are ‘very substantial amendments’ to the Wildlife Act and are calling for the closed period for hedge cutting shortened by a month.

Pat Rohan, Chairperson of ICMSA Farm and Rural Affairs Committee, has made a submission to the National Parks and Wildlife Service calling for very substantial amendments to be made to the laws regulating when and in what circumstances, hedgerow habitats may be cut and maintained.

ICMSA has proposed that the current ‘Closed Period’ during which it is illegal to cut hedgerows for fear of disturbing nesting birds be shortened by a calendar month and run from March 1 to July 31 as opposed to the current August 31.

Mr Rohan said that the most up-to-date research all indicated that birds have left their nests by the end of July and he said it was no longer tenable for Irish farmers to be prohibited from maintaining hedgerows and possibly breaching the cross-compliance rules governing the Basic Payment Scheme (formerly the Single Farm Payment).

He said that the original closed period set out in the 1976 act was amended and extended by the Wildlife Amendment Act 2000 in a way that had now been overtaken by our knowledge of how and when the wildlife interacted with this environment and the legislation now measurably lagged the reality in a way that was imposing a large and growing cost on farmers and the state’s biggest indigenous economic activity.

“No one can say that farmers have been anything but incredibly positive about maintaining the environment and protecting the wildlife our environment supports. Over 40m hedgerow plants have been planted through REPS and AEOS and nearly 10,000km of new hedgerow planted in the last 20 years.

“We’ve done everything we can and jumped through every environmental hoop but we have a situation in both hedgerow cutting and burning on both enclosed and unclosed lands where we now know for certain that the duration and timing of the closed periods are unnecessary and should be amended to keep up with the scientific research and make it someway easier for farmers to comply with a what are already onerous environmental regulatory frameworks.

“We expect a reasonable and positive response from the National Parks and Wildlife Service to what are reasonable and positive proposed amendments,” said Mr Comer.