At a meeting with the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys this week, IFA acknowledged that the proposed changes in the Heritage Bill of a one-month extension for hedge cutting and burning of gorse on a pilot basis are a positive step and will be welcomed by farmers.
At the meeting, IFA pointed out to the Minister the necessity of an early implementation date. It was agreed that details of the guidelines on burning and hedge cutting would be discussed between IFA and the NPWS over the coming weeks.
IFA has been campaigning on this issue since changes were introduced as part of the Wildlife Amendment in 2000. The Minister’s decision to introduce on a pilot basis for two years an extension of one month for hedge cutting to include August, and to allow burning of gorse in March, is a practical step and will be a major help to farmers.
IFA Hill Committee Chairman Pat Dunne said the existing burning dates from 1st September to the end of February were too narrow and have led to land abandonment in many hill areas. The extension by a month is important as it will address uncontrolled wildfires, allow for better vegetative management and assist farmers in making land eligible for the various EU CAP schemes.
Pat Dunne said that the change of the dates, while still not in line with Northern Ireland, will be important for the better management of upland areas.
IFA Environment Chairman Harold Kingston said bringing forward the hedge cutting date by a month is very practical as it will contribute to better hedgerow management where hedges have been overgrown. “It will also impact positively on road safety as has been highlighted by the Road Safety Authority. It will address farm safety concerns as the current arrangements mean that it is confined to periods when daylight has reduced.”
Harold Kingston also pointed out that the unpredictable winter weather has typically resulted in hedge cutting being reduced by a third. The new extended period will help to address this.