Written answers

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht

Environmental Regulations

Photo of Brendan GriffinBrendan Griffin (Kerry South, Fine Gael)
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To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will revisit the issue of restrictions on gorse burning time, taking account of the implementation method in other jurisdictions, with a view to easing the difficulties that the current calendar based system is causing for farmers and also the fire services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57493/12]

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Kerry North-West Limerick, Fine Gael)
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I am aware of the concerns expressed in relation to the current restrictions on burning gorse and, indeed, I recently met with farmers' representatives in relation to this matter.

Under section 40 of the Wildlife Acts, the cutting, grubbing, burning or destruction by other means of vegetation growing on uncultivated land or in hedges or ditches is prohibited during the nesting and breeding season for birds and wildlife, from 1 March to 31 August. This is subject to certain specific exceptions, but these exceptions - which include the cutting or grubbing of isolated bushes of gorse during the ordinary course of agriculture - do not allow anything done by burning. Hedgerows are an important reservoir of biodiversity and habitat for birds, insects, wild flowers and other wildlife during the summer breeding season. The purpose of these provisions is to protect bird life during the nesting season, to prevent forest fires, and to protect vegetation and wildlife habitats during the months of growth and reproduction.

However, while hedgerows and scrub are important as wildlife habitats, they need to be managed in the interests of both farming and biodiversity. Accordingly, I included a commitment in the National Biodiversity Plan 2011-2016 to review the overall policy in this area. The commitment is to review, in co-operation with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, both hedgerow and scrub regulation with a view to producing guidelines to encourage best practice for hedgerow and scrub management for wildlife.

With regard to the specific issues raised with me by the farmers' representatives, I have asked my officials to consider them and to report to me as soon as possible.


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