Out of Season Hedge and Tree Cutting Concerns Raised

Neat and Tidy but so completely out of season: The ditch in question between An Caisleán Mór and St. Stephen’s Park with thick foliage and young trees which were subjected to the jaws of a hedge cutting machine on Thursday. ©Photograph: John Reidy

It must be a sign of greatly increasing concern for our immediate environment when town-dwelling people are aware of the legalities and timelines surrounding the hedge cutting season.

But then, many of these ‘townies’ have firm roots in the country and that kind of awareness is second nature to them.

On Thursday, a hedge cutting machine moved in on a boundary ditch between the Kerry County Council estates of St. Stephen’s Park and An Caisleán Mór in Castleisland.

Hedge Cutting Operators

The window of opportunity closes for hedge cutting operators between March 1st and August 31st – with only strict exemptions in certain cases.

People, whose houses are situated close to the ditch in question were upset on Thursday as they felt that many young and nesting birds were caught in the jaws of the machine and a couple of nicely maturing trees were also cut in half.

Many birds nest only in leafy months for the obvious, nature driven reasons of camouflage and cover in which to rear their young.

Done on Request

The work was carried out, one local presumed, at the request of someone in the area and most likely as a result of a word with a canvassing politician prior to the recent council elections.

However, in response to an enquiry to Kerry County Council’s Castleisland offices, a spokesperson confirmed that the office has had many requests to cut the hedge in question and long before the election.

As these operations go, the deed was done with professionalism and tidiness with not a twig left on either side of the ditch – but that’s not the point.

Dáil Question on Hedge Cutting

With regard to hedgerows: Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan,TD responded to a question from independent Tipperary Deputy Mattie McGrath who asked her about the introduction of regulations to provide for managed hedge cutting on roadsides and burning of vegetation.

For the people upset at last week’s hedge cutting here in Castleisland, the most relevant part of the minister’s answer can be found in the first line of the following excerpt.

I know that ministerial responses could well be handed out in confession boxes as penance for mortal sins. But, I’ve taken the most relevant bits to cover the venial sins of those who complained on behalf of nature – those who, very genuinely, are for the birds.

Minister Madigan’s Response

“Section 40 of the Wildlife Acts 1976, as amended, prohibits the cutting, grubbing, burning or destruction of vegetation, with certain strict exemptions, from 1 March to 31 August.

And it continues:

“In relation to hedgerows, Section 7(2) of the Heritage Act 2018 provides for the cutting of roadside hedges only during the month of August under Regulations.

Important Wildlife Habitat

“Ireland has some 300,000 kilometers of hedgerow mainly surrounding fields and properties across the country and only roadside hedges are subject to the provisions of the Heritage Act – a fraction of the entirety of the total hedgerow resource in this country.

“I fully recognise that hedgerows are a very important wildlife habitat, providing food, shelter, corridors of movement, nesting and hibernation sites for many of our native flora and fauna.

Current Year’s Growth Only

“The change in timing of cutting set out in Section 7 of the Act should not interfere with any of these functions.

To that end, and to ensure that any birds’ nests that might still be active by August will not be at risk, any regulations made under Section 7(2) will require that any cutting in August may only be of the current year’s growth and should not involve the use of heavy flails.

It is the intention that my department will carry out studies to determine what, if any, effects there are during the pilot phase.”

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