Significant Submission on Burning Regulations

1st February 2019
Press Release

The controversial Heritage Act is back in the public realm again, as the public consultation on the draft regulations and guidelines on the Burning Regulations has just closed.

It is currently an offence under the Wildlife Act to burn any vegetation growing on any uncultivated land from 1 March to 31 August, but the Heritage Act 2018 allows for a relaxation of the dates of the closed period for the burning of vegetation, extending it in to March, in certain circumstances and locations.

Section 7 (1) of the Act purports to outline the regulations which would allow for the controlled burning of vegetation in the month of March. However, the regulations are ambiguous at best, and don’t give any specific detail about where the burning will be allowed, under what circumstances it will be permitted, or how it will be controlled.

Additionally, the regulations undermine, and in many cases would appear to overlook, some of our most important environmental legislation.

While the Minister made assurances last summer that there would be no damage to wildlife from this Act, the obvious lack of detail in these regulations would contradict that statement. Wildlife considerations are not a major feature in these regulations, indeed they are barely acknowledged.

Environmental NGOs, including An Taisce, have repeatedly raised concern that allowing for burning in March will be detrimental for many of Ireland’s most sensitive species, particularly for birds who begin nesting in March. These include the iconic curlew, and the seriously threatened Hen Harrier, both of which are on the brink of extinction, and nest in scrub habitats. This Act could well push them over the edge.

The Heritage Act was controversial from the get go, and faced huge public opposition. It would appear that this was justified. These regulations do not instil any confidence that Ireland’s wildlife is not seriously at risk.

Dr. Elaine McGoff, Natural Environment Officer with An Taisce, stated

‘These regulations seem to ignore some of our most important environmental legislation, and the legality of burning under these regulations must be called in to question. Landowners must be aware of the legal implications if they carry out the burning without the necessary environmental assessments. It is the Government’s duty to highlight these obligations, one which it has entirely failed to do’

‘In the face of huge public opposition, the Minister has produced a set of regulations which are ambiguous, are not legally binding, and would appear to have no real way to either licence or control burning in March. They are essentially a carte blanche for landowners to burn as they see fit’

‘I would have no faith in these regulations for providing any wildlife protection. Once again the Minister has ignored the concerns of environmental NGOs and the public at large. These regulations are failing our hugely threatened and precious Irish wildlife.’

An Taisce's full submission available here: http://www.antaisce.org/sites/antaisce.org/files/an_taisce_burning_regulations_submission.pdf

ENDS

For further information, contact:
Dr. Elaine McGoff, Natural Environment Officer, An Taisce: +353 85 715 3796
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland

Notes:

The Heritage Act
Under Section 40 Wildlife Act vegetation on uncultivated land and any vegetation growing in any hedge or ditch is protected during the period March to August, inclusive. Section 7(1) of the Heritage Act (2018) will introduce changes to section 40 of the Wildlife Act, which will permit, under Regulation, the “burning of vegetation” in March.

About An Taisce

An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland's natural and built heritage. We are an independent charitable voice for the environment and for heritage issues. We are not a government body, semi-state or agency. Founded in 1948, we are one of Ireland’s oldest and largest environmental organisations.