Warning issued over unauthorised hedgecutting


The Clare Biodiversity Group has warned that the unauthorised cutting of hedges and clearing of vegetation across the county could lead to the destruction of important wildlife habitats.

The newly-appointed Clare Biodiversity Officer, Brigid Barry, said that it was incumbent on all government departments, public bodies, local authorities and members of the public to ensure that Section 40 of the Wildlife Act, 1976 was adhered to.

She explained - “The recent reports of BirdLife International give cause for concern and underline the need for action to protect our hedgerows. The reports indicate that almost a third of Ireland’s breeding bird species are in decline. Furthermore, the Local Biodiversity Action Plan in Clare recognises that hedgerows provide important habitats for a variety of species and states ‘for the future, the overall goal should be to have no net loss of the hedgerow resource’.

“Birds are an important element of the Clare’s rich biodiversity. We must take good care of their nests to protect future generations of bird populations and keep our biodiversity thriving” - Ms. Barry added.

According to the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), Ireland’s low cover of native woodland means that hedges are of exceptional importance in providing habitats and corridors for maintaining wildlife diversity, particularly for birds. They are also vital for wild plants and other ecologically important organisms that provide food and shelter for birds.

Wrens, dunnocks, robins, thrushes and willow warblers - as well as other rare species - depend greatly on hedgerow habitats. In general, untrimmed, thorned hedgerows containing shrubs - such as blackthorn, whitethorn, holly, briars and brambles - are favoured by birds as they provide protection from predators.

In a letter to Clare County Council, the NPWS outlined - 'Forward planning should, in general, allow the scheduling and carrying out of necessary work to hedgerows and vegetation growing on roadside banks and ditches, to be completed outside the nesting season'.

The letter also stated - 'It is essential that all routine and essential hedge trimming is undertaken and completed by 1 March each year. However, under section 40 of the Wildlife Act, exemptions to this include cutting for public health and safety reasons, the fisheries board for development works, preparation of a building site and trimming for farming activity'.