The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) has posted a reminder about the closed season for hedgerow cutting in Ireland on its Facebook page. The post went viral within a few hours, was shared over 1,700 times, and according to official Facebook insight, reached almost 140,000 people!
The attention this simple post received, and the amount of comments and arguments, showed just how low awareness and understanding of this issue is among the general public.
Conn Flynn, IWT Development Officer says: “In comparison to other countries, Ireland is farmed very intensively. As a result, it is a country of fields with very little forestry and tree cover. Hedgerows are therefore essential for maintaining wildlife diversity, supporting species such as badgers, owls, hedgehogs, stoats, blackbirds and innumerable plants, butterflies and other insects. Not only are they an invaluable resource for much of our wildlife, they are vital in providing pollinators, cleaning our air, defining our landscape, storing carbon and by holding back the flow of water off land they can alleviate flooding.“
Unless for reasons of health and safety, hedge cutting is in breach of the Wildlife Act 1976 (as Amended, 2000) which bans hedge cutting from March 1st to August 31st each year. However, this legislation doesn’t prevent landowners, communities and even Local Authorities continuing hedgerow cutting throughout the year. Either they are unaware that they are breaking the law and causing tremendous environmental damage or simply don’t care.
“The IWT wants to highlight the value of hedgerows and we want people to report these incidents. While genuine health and safety issues should never go unaddressed, we believe that this clause is being used in a blanket manner to excuse hedge-cutting anywhere and at any time,” says Conn Flynn.
The IWT is urging people to report cases of illegal hedgerow cutting to both the Gardaí and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). Providing photographic or video evidence can help significantly with a successful investigation.