Proposed Changes contained in the Heritage Bill are a serious threat to wildlife and habitats in Ireland

Update July 5th 2018: The Heritage Bill was approved in Dáil Éireann on July 5th 2018. See the BirdWatch Ireland press release here.

BirdWatch Ireland briefing on the Bill is HERE.

See Legal Opinion here on proposals on hedgecutting.


Demonstration was held outside Leinster House on April 25th 2018.

Protest was held on March 2nd 2017- details here.


Sign the petition against these changes 

Proposed Heritage Bill is a threat to nesting birds

The Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and the Gaeltacht (AHRRG), Heather Humphreys T.D. whose remit includes protection of natural heritage/biodiversity has resurrected Heritage Bill 2016 which includes proposals to change the dates for hedgecutting and upland burning which are contained in Section 40 of the Wildlife Act. The bill was introduced in the Seanad and passed the first stage in January of this before the Oireachtas was dissolved in advance of the General Election.

The proposed changes would allow cutting, destroying and removal of hedgerows in August and burning in the uplands in March when birds are trying to lay eggs and raise chicks.

Currently it is illegal to cut, remove/destroy hedgerows and burn vegetation in our uplands between March 1 and August 31 in order to protect breeding birds.


The Minister is proposing a two-year pilot law with a rollover clause which would allow hedgecutting in August and burning in March which gives farmers and landowners a 7th month for these activities. But BirdWatch Ireland has the data showing that birds are nesting during August and March. So, the Minister is ignoring the science. In addition, the Minister has not engaged with the environmental NGOs who are dedicated to protecting birds and other wildlife. 

BirdWatch Ireland, An Taisce, the Irish Wildlife Trust, and the Hedgelaying Association of Ireland are all fighting to protect our birds and other wildlife which will be impacted by these changes. The Minister has not presented any rationale for the changes especially no scientific justification or case for how birds will not be impacted. Please sign the Petition against changes to the Wildlife Act


Read about amazing farmers doing great work for biodiversity


Facts to Remember:

1. Section 40 already includes a derogation to allow local authorities to cut where there are road safety issues.

2. Yellowhammer, Linnet and Greenfinch nest well into September and therefore hedgecutting could justifiably be restricted in these areas until mid-September.

3.Curlew and other upland breeding birds will have begun their nesting activities in March and will therefore be impacted by these changes.

4. Other wildlife which will be impacted include butterflies and other invertebrates which rely on hedgerow flowers for food.

5. There are already 6 months of the year when farmers and landowners can cut hedgerows and burn vegetation. Adding one more month could put some Red-listed species over the edge towards extinction in Ireland (e.g. Yellowhammer, Curlew).

6. BirdWatch Ireland has called for research on First Egg Laying Dates in Ireland but the Minister has decided to make the changes before the research is undertaken.

Contact Alex Copland ( or Oonagh Duggan ( for more information.


Further Reading:

 31 Days in August:31 Reasons to Say no to Heritage Bill 

Presentation to TDs on impacts of the current legislation on roadside hedgerows and wildlife May 23 2017

BirdWatch Ireland's Submission to the Review of Section 40 of the Wildlife Act

BirdWatch Ireland Position & FAQs on why we should not change the dates.

BirdWatch Ireland Press Release: Announcement of the proposed changes to the Wildlife Act (December 2015)

BirdWatch Ireland December 2015 Article: When to cut? Season for Hedgerow Cutting is under Review

Irish Times Article (24th January 2016): Thousands oppose proposal to extend hedge cutting season

Irish Times Editorial (23rd January 2016): Burning and Hedge Cutting 

That's Farming Article ((March 12 2017): Hedgecutting/Burning proposals are about politics, not wildlife 

Irish Farmer's Journal Article (March 2 2017).

Joint NGO Open Letter (appeared in Irish Examiner and Irish Times) on March 2 2017.

Learn about Red-listed Yellowhammer

Learn about Red-listed Curlew 


Information about Hedgerows:

Learn more about our amazing hedgerows here.  

Teagasc Hedgecutting best practice and guides

Conserving Hedgerows  

Irish Hedgerows - Networks for Nature

Carbon Sequestration by Hedgerows in the Irish Landscape

Hedgerow Appraisal System

Hedge Laying Association of Ireland 


Information relating to our uplands and the impacts of burning:

If you are a farmer, read about the Land Eligibility Rules in relation to scrub removal and burning.

Birdwatch Ireland Position Statement on Scrub Removal and Burning in the Uplands (2014)

Effects of Moorland Burning on the Ecohydrology of River Basins (Leeds University Report)






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