Dear Members and Friends,

The Heritage Bill will be debated for the final time in the Seanad, tomorrow Wednesday 29th March. Section 8 of the Bill will allow burning of vegetation in March and cutting, grubbing and removal of vegetation (including hedgerows) in August. The changes proposed in this Section will have a huge impact on Irish wildlife. It is the intention of Minister Humphreys to conclude the debate on Wednesday evening and take it to the Dáil. Therefore this week is the last chance to urge Senators to do the right thing.

We urge you to contact your Senators personally to remind them of the detrimental impact the proposals of the #HeritageBill will have on biodiversity, particularly species like the red-listed yellowhammer and the native curlew population.

Fianna Fáil intends to table an amendment to restrict hedge-cutting to roadside hedges only. The party spokesman Éamon Ó Cuív, stated that the amendment would result in only one cutting, that of one side of roadside hedges, giving a general allowance to cut roadside hedges in August if necessary. “This will establish a general right to cut hedges on roadways in August but we do not envisage it being a widespread practice,” Ó Cuív said. Because of the hard work done to date by individuals, NGOs and Senators in favour of wildlife protection, this amendment has been brought to the fore. An Taisce would support that amendment in principle. As roadside hedges can be cut at any time of the year for road safety, an amendment of this type might reduce the negative impacts which would result if the Heritage Bill were to go through as is. This amendment, however, is yet to be seen. Fianna Fáil must ensure that they follow through on this commitment. We must ensure that the amendment has the best interests of our wildlife at heart.

Additionally, Section 8 also contains proposed changes to allow the burning of vegetation in March for which Fianna Fáil is offering no amendment. Ó Cuív stated on this issue, “Is there a big argument against it in the community? I don’t think so”. This is far from the truth, given the annual spectacle of fire-fighters fighting to save property from wildfires in the West of the country and in our uplands.

Allowing burning to occur in March will destroy the habitat of threatened ground nesting birds like Curlew and Hen Harrier which return to our uplands and bogs in March. There are six months available for responsible vegetation control and controlled burns. What we need to see is enforcement of the existing laws and training to encourage best practice land management.

Furthermore, Section 8 proposes a countrywide ‘pilot study’. However, without a baseline or a control area, the proposed 'pilot study' is not scientific. Any proposed changes must be based on robust data and must demonstrate that no negative impact on wildlife will occur. Research into nesting behaviour and all impacts of these changes should be carried out before any changes are considered. This information is essential to ensure that we can make an informed decision about what is best for the environment and farming.

We would urge you to contact Senators with the issues mentioned before this Wednesday’s debate. The response to personalised emails has been positive, therefore we would encourage you to contact Senators with the issues mentioned. In summary:

1) Encourage Fianna Fáil to oppose hedge cutting in August with the exception of road safety issues.

2) Encourage Fianna Fáil Senators to oppose the burning of vegetation in March.

3) There is no basis for a scientific pilot in the wording of the current Bill. Rigorous scientific data must underpin any proposal to weaken the protection offered by the Wildlife Act. It is unacceptable that these changes should go through the Oireachtas without being supported by evidence. Impress upon Fianna Fáil that no changes should come into effect before scientific evidence has been presented supporting the claim that these changes will not result in biodiversity loss.

Fianna Fáil Senators Contact information – Oireachtas

Terry Leyden Mr [email protected] 01-6183853

Robbie Gallagher Mr [email protected] 01-6183087

Paul Daly Mr [email protected] 01-6183965

Ned O'Sullivan Mr [email protected] 01-6183730

Mark Daly Mr [email protected] 01-6183830

Lorraine Clifford-Lee Ms [email protected] 01-6183747

Keith Swanick Mr [email protected] 01-6183736

Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Ms [email protected] 01-6183307

Gerry Horkan Mr [email protected] 01-6183846

Diarmuid Wilson Mr [email protected] 01-6183561

Denis O'Donovan Mr [email protected] 01-6183079

Catherine Ardagh Ms [email protected] 01-6183039

Brian Ó Domhnaill Mr [email protected] 01-6184057

Aidan Davitt Mr [email protected] 01-6183519

Please also consider contacting

Charlie McConalogue TD Spokesperson on Agriculture, Food and the Marine [email protected] 0749373131

Éamon Ó Cuív TD Spokesperson on Regional Development, Rural Affairs and the Gaeltacht [email protected] 091-562846

For further information see our website articles on the Bill including the following:

Is mise le meas

Fintan Kelly,

Natural Environment Officer