An Taisce is deeply disappointed by the announcement today by the Minister for Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphries that hedge cutting will be allowed in August, even if this is under a 'controlled' pilot scheme. Under the Wildlife Acts, hedgerows traditionally are not cut during the period from 1st March to 31st August each year, in order to protect birds during the nesting season.

Ireland has the second lowest forest cover in Europe and of this only a paltry 1% is native species. Hedgerows are vital in that they support woodland plants and animals and are a vital refuge for Ireland’s wildlife. The extension of the cutting season into August is difficult to justify as hedge cutting is already allowed during the nesting season in cases where there is a legitimate health and safety issue. There is ample time during the existing system between September and February to manage hedgerows.

This announcement is another blow for Ireland beleaguered farmland biodiversity. Birds like the yellowhammer for example have declined by 61% since the 1970s. Other once common birds are also undergoing shocking declines in their long-term breeding distribution: Corncrake (92%), Curlew (89%), Whinchat (77%), Grey Partridge (74%), Lapwing (56%), and Red Grouse (52%). One third of our 97 wild bees are currently threatened with extinction. This is terrible news for Ireland’s biodiversity but also humanity as we are reliant on the natural world to an extent many people fail to realise. 50-80% of the world's food supply for example is directly or indirectly affected by bee pollination.

Minister Humphries has given an early Christmas present to the IFA having once again caved to their demands. €2.18 billion has been given to farmers in Ireland under CAP environmental schemes between 1994 and 2006, these schemes, have failed to deliver sufficient protection for Ireland’s biodiversity. This situation makes a mockery of Ireland’s current branding of our food and drink sector as “green” and sustainable under Bord Bias, Origin Green marketing campaign.

Fintan Kelly, Natural Environment Officer, An Taisce, stated:

“The current levels of farmland biodiversity loss are nothing short of catastrophic. This backward step by the Minister and the ongoing intensification of Irish Agriculture will unquestionably hasten the demise of many of our most cherished wild birds and animals. The statement from the Minister that this decision will benefit rural communities is frankly insulting.”

For further information, please call:
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
Fintan Kelly, Natural Environment Officer, An Taisce. Tel +353 85 129 5849
email: [email protected]
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland