No change will be made to the legislation to allow for hedgecutting in August on a pilot-basis before the hedgecutting season ends on March 1.

A statement from the Oireachtas has said that the Heritage Bill is still at committee stage in the Seanad and will be heard again on March 2.

The Bill was heard in the Seanad before Christmas.

The proposed legislation under the bill is to allow for hedgecutting during August and burning at certain times on a two-year pilot basis, under strict criteria.

The Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys has said that she is keen to progress the Bill without delay.

An extension to the dates for hedgecutting and burning would a major help to farmers, IFA has said previously.

IFA Hill Committee Chairman Pat Dunne has also said the existing burning dates from September 1 to the end of February were too narrow and have led to land abandonment in many hill areas.

The extension by a month is important as it will address uncontrolled wildfires, allow for better vegetative management and assist farmers in making land eligible for the various EU CAP schemes.

However, not everyone is in agreement to the extension, with Green Party Senator Grace O’Sullivan saying that the hedgecutting argument is skewed in favour of a small minority of farmers.

Speaking in the Seanad on the issue she said that this small minority of farmers are “probably putting the pressure” on the Minister for Heritage, Heather Humphreys.

O’Sullivan appealed to the Minister to, instead of introducing this legislation on a two-year pilot basis, do a baseline survey in the month of August.

“Let’s do the research, but not open the season in August to hedgecutting.”

Currently, 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.

It was following a review of Section 40, which involved, inter alia, consideration of submissions from interested parties, that the Minister announced proposals in December 2015 to introduce legislation to allow for managed hedgecutting and burning at certain times within the existing closed period.