Regressive (anti) Heritage Bill 2016 rears its head again

BirdWatch Ireland continues to work against proposed changes to laws governing hedgecutting, scrub removal and upland burning.

BirdWatch Ireland understands that the Minister in charge of nature protection, Heather Humphreys TD, intends to resurrect the regressive Heritage Bill 2016, which includes proposed extensions to the dates for hedgecutting and burning in the uplands. These proposed changes will have a negative impact on wildlife, including breeding birds.

Yellowhammer, one of the species that will be most severely hurt by the proposed new law (Photo: John Fox)
Yellowhammer, one of the species that will be most severely hurt by the proposed new law
(Photo: John Fox)

The bill was originally initiated in the Seanad early in 2016 but did not make it through the Oireachtas, as the Dáil was dissolved in advance of the General Election before it could vote on it. The bill proposes to change the dates to allow burning in March and hedgecutting in August, i.e., during periods when birds are nesting. No scientific rationale has been presented in support of this change: indeed, it seems to be an entirely political decision.

BirdWatch Ireland's submission to the public consultation in relation to the date change urged the Minister to commission research on Irish egg-laying dates before any changes are made. The Minister has decided to ignore this advice and to make the changes first and then conduct the research in a two-year pilot, no details of which have been made public.

BirdWatch Ireland made the case, using the best available information from the UK (which also includes some Irish data), that several Red-listed birds, including Curlew and Yellowhammer, would be negatively impacted by the proposed changes. Curlew has experienced an 80% decline since the 1970’s, and Irish Yellowhammer populations have crashed.

An environmental coalition including BirdWatch Ireland, An Taisce, Irish Wildlife Trust and the Hedgelaying Association of Ireland has formed to work on this issue. A petition launched in January 2016 has received over 18,000 signatures and growing, which is an astounding response showing that many people care, not only about birds, but the pollinators, bats, butterflies and mammals which use hedgerows for feeding, shelter and as a 'roads'.

We will continue to campaign against this regressive law, but we need your help. The petition is still live so please sign it if you have not done so already. We cannot keep selling Ireland as a 'green' and sustainable land and then undermine the laws that protect its nature.

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