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Give wildlife a chance this nesting season

It's March 1st, and today I'm appealing to people to give wildlife a chance and help protect nature through the nesting and breeding season ahead. From today, cutting of hedgerows and burning of land is prohibited under the Wildlife Act to protect vegetation and wildlife habitats and help prevent forest or wildfires. 

Areas of scrub and hedgerows, along with our uplands, are incredibly important habitats for birds and other wildlife, especially in the breeding and nesting season. You can already see the birds are busy collecting nesting materials, and in the weeks and months ahead some of our most familiar and beloved birds and mammals, many of which are in decline, will be trying to find a mate, nest, and rear their young. It’s essential that we give them the time and space to have the best chance of breeding successfully. 


So much of our wildlife relies heavily on hedgerow and upland habitats to have a successful breeding season. These habitats provide the food they need to feed those hungry mouths, and the shelter that helps keep them safe from predators. For that reason, our legislation prohibits damage to vegetation from March 1st to August 31st, with limited exemptions.


I’m calling on everyone today to do their bit for nature, and to avoid cutting, grubbing or burning vegetation for the next few months. I’m also asking people not, under any circumstances, to light fires in nature settings. Our National Parks and Wildlife Service is stepping up its efforts to fight wildlife crime. We have more rangers on the ground and in the air than ever before, monitoring and patrolling and using new technology, like arial monitoring, to secure more prosecutions for burning outside of the season. We’re taking this very seriously because it is serious, and the courts are taking it seriously too.


Figures from the NPWS show that between 2020 and 2024, 157 cases were submitted by NPWS to CSSO for prosecution, with 124 cases now closed and 33 cases to hand, but these figures are only one indicator of measures that the NPWS undertake to protect nature and wildlife. There’s also the control of activities through licensing and permits, as well as cross-reporting to the Department of Agriculture, with serious consequences for landowners for eligibility under the basic payments scheme.


We're in a biodiversity crisis and we all have a part to play in making space for nature to survive and thrive, so please, play your part, and if you see what you suspect to be a hedge-cutting or burning offence - report it to your local NPWS office or Garda station.


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