The Irish Wildlife Trust opposed to calls for a relaxation of scrubland burning restrictions, is seeking a complete ban on the destruction of upland vegetation.
The submission was one of 50 received by the Department of Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht in advance of today’s deadline for the review of the hedge cutting and upland burning season.
The farmland practices are governed by Section 40 of the Wildlife Acts, designed to protect bird life, especially, and prevents forest fires.
Minister Heather Humphreys had sought a review following landowners’ claims the closed period from March 1 to August 31 was “too inflexible”.
In their submissions, some county councils also backed farm organisations on issues such as road safety and the unpredictability of the weather to dictate scrubland burning and hedge-cutting arrangements.
However, according to the Wildlife Trust (IWT): “All burning of upland vegetation needs to be banned.”
It claimed untold damage was caused yearly to soil and water sources, as well as to young animals. It was further claimed that much burning in counties such as Wicklow occurred from March to June, outside the closed season.
Heather, not gorse, was being burned in Wicklow, records since 1997 showed.
A survey recently by Kerry County Council also discovered about 70% of burning on mountains and in areas surrounding the Killarney national park occurred during April and in May, contrary to the law.
Hedgerows, described as important repositories of wildlife, were also very ancient and played an important role in flooding and drainage, the wildlife trust’s spokesman Padraic Fogarty said.
“Upland habitats in Ireland have suffered a massive loss of biodiversity in recent decades due to misguided public policy, unregulated turf extraction, over-grazing by sheep and uncontrolled burning,” he said.
Scientific studies showed the habitats were being lost and those remaining were not being maintained, despite schemes such as REPS for which farmers were grant-aided.
Mr Fogarty said: “The environmental situation in the uplands is dire. A combination of disastrous government policy and annual, illegal burning has already destroyed most of the upland habitats and driven species to the verge of extinction.
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