Illegally burnt land must be removed from 2017 BPS applications

Illegally burnt agricultural or forestry land must be removed from 2017 Basic Payment Scheme applications, according to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The burning of land during the closed period – March 1 to August 31 – is deemed illegal, the Minister of State at the department, Andrew Doyle, said.

Agricultural and forestry land which has been burnt illegally will not be eligible for payment under the BPS scheme, or any other area-based schemes, he added.

Farmers who have included illegally burnt land in their 2017 BPS applications, which have already been submitted to the department, should now remove this land, Minister Doyle said.

This can be done by submitting an Amendment Form to the department between May 31 and June 9; these amendments will be accepted with a penalty.

Meanwhile, the inclusion of illegally burnt land in a BPS application may result in reduced payment and penalties under the scheme and other area-based schemes, such as the Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC) scheme, he said.

Where it is identified, as part of current investigations, that lands were burnt during the closed season, this may result in such land being inspected by department officials, Minister Doyle added.

Investigations underway

Recent extensive wildfires throughout the country have caused significant damage to substantial areas of agricultural and forestry land.

Department officials are currently analysing a wide range of satellite imagery, to identify land which was burnt illegally during the specified closed season for burning, according to Minister Doyle.

Historic satellite imagery is also being examined as part of this process, he added.

My department is actively investigating all of the recent incidents of illegal burning of land using the most up-to-date technology/satellite imagery.

“My department will not tolerate incidences of illegal burning of land and will take all necessary actions to ensure compliance with the conditions of the various EU funded area-based schemes, including reducing payments and penalties where applicable,” he said.

The most notable wildfire in recent weeks took place in the Cloosh Valley in Co. Galway. The site was recently visited by Minister Doyle.

Raging for a number of days, the fire resulted in an estimated loss of some 1,500ha of forestry and 1,000ha of bogland.