We Need Our Senators To Stand Up For Wildlife
Dear Members and friends,
As you may be aware An Taisce in partnership with Birdwatch Ireland, Hedge Laying Association of Ireland and Irish Wildlife Trust have been campaigning for over a year against Minister Heather Humphreys, proposed changes to Section 40 of the Wildlife Act, which will allow cutting of hedgerows from the 1st of August and the burning and destroying of upland habitats from March 1st. There is overwhelming evidence that this proposal will have serious adverse consequences for Ireland’s already threatened and declining biodiversity, see our submission to DAHG here. In recognition of this almost 25,000 people have signed our No To More Slash and Burn petition to date. In spite of this the Minister will bring these negative changes before the Seanad this coming Wednesday November 9th as part of the Heritage Bill 2016.
Together we can stop this from happening. If you haven’t already please sign our petition. More importantly we need you to contact as many Senators as you can before next Wednesday. We need you to ask our Senators to vote against any amendments to the Wildlife Act which will weaken environmental protections (Section 8 of the Bill). Please in your own words let them know how important Ireland’s natural heritage is to you and why you don’t support the Heritage Bill 2016. If possible urge them to speak on your behalf during the debate.
Rather than weakening the Wildlife Act, the Heritage Bill should seek to strengthen the sustainability of Irish agriculture. How can this be achieved? We need to identify in consultation with the farming community the specific issues they encounter due to the closed season on hedge cutting and burning. We need to carry out research into the lifecycles of Irish wildlife to make an informed decision about how these changes will impact on biodiversity. We need to have a public consultation on the various different ways in which we can find the best option for Ireland. There may be win-wins. For example in Scotland upland burning is encouraged in autumn because heather regenerates more successfully after autumn fires.
Over the course of August we posted 31 Reasons why more hedge cutting was a bad idea. Click here for all of those reasons.
As well as being iconic symbols of the Irish rural landscape, hedgerows are extremely important habitats for biodiversity, including many native birds and bats. Hedgerows provide food, shelter and safety for them, and they are also an essential component for flood defense, preventing soil erosion and the silting of rivers as well as carbon sequestration. Hedgerows are also very important for farmers, acting as habitats for pollinators and for predators of species regarded as pests. Ireland's hedgerows are some of the most iconic features of the Irish landscape. They are of huge cultural significance with some of them dating back thousands of years. They are also very important for biodiversity, as they cover more area then our remaining native woodlands and act as corridors linking habitats across the landscape. The greatest threat to hedgerow biodiversity aside from removal is intensive management. Allowing hedge cutting in August will seriously impact on already critical levels of biodiversity loss on Irish farmland. Yellowhammer, Linnet and Greenfinch nest well into September. Such a move would seriously undermine Ireland’s reputation as a producer of environmentally friendly food and drink. These changes come at a time when many tillage farmers are receiving 30% of their basic payments for measures related to hedgerow protection. This backward step comes at a time when many other countries in the EU are moving to increase environmental protections.
Ireland’s uplands have inspired artists for generations. They contain some of our most iconic landscapes and are a beacon for domestic and international tourists alike. They supply society with important services as they regulate our climate buy storing carbon and store water and regulate flooding downstream. They are also a safe haven for many habitats and species which have been driven to extinction by agricultural intensification in our lowlands. Species like the Curlew, Golden Plover, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Hen Harrier and Red Grouse rely on tall vegetation in our uplands so that they can lay their eggs, raise their young and forage. Burning vegetation in March means that there is less tall vegetation available for them when they need to build a nest. Species like Stone Chat may have already built their nests by March. There are already six months of the year for farmers to remove scrub from their farms. In Scotland there is a tradition of burning in autumn when birds are finished nesting. Research has also shown that heather regenerates more successfully after autumn fires. Wouldn’t adopting this practice benefit farmers and wildlife?
- This Bill will not make our roads safer. Section 40 of the Wildlife Act already includes a derogation to allow local authorities to cut hedges where there are road safety issues.
- Any changes on road safety grounds should be raised under Section 70 of the Roads Act.
- Yellowhammer, Linnet and Greenfinch nest well into September and therefore hedgecutting could justifiably be restricted until mid-September.
- Curlew and other upland breeding birds will have begun their nesting activities in March and will therefore be impacted by these changes. These species require tall vegetation to nest and burning in March will destroy vital breeding and nesting habitat.
- Other wildlife which will be impacted includes bats, hedgehogs, butterflies and other invertebrates and small mammals which rely on hedgerow flowers and fruit for food. In particular bees will be effected by the loss of floral resources. This at a time when we are rolling out the All Ireland Pollinator Plan to try and halt severe bee decline.
- There are already 6 months of the year when landowners can cut hedgerows and burn vegetation. These changes are not in line with the changes being made by other European Countries to improve environmental protections at a national level.
Further research is needed into the effect on wildife of burning uplands in March and cutting hedgerows in August before these changes can be justified.
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