File image of hedgerows. Shutterstock/Chrislofotos

'Immediate steps' should be taken to protect Ireland's hedgerows, committee to hear

The Agriculture Committee will hear from participants on hedgerows and the draft CAP Strategic Plan.

BIODIVERSITY IN IRELAND “is in A&E”, an Oireachtas committee will hear today.

The Agriculture Committee will also hear that “immediate steps” should be taken to protect Ireland’s hedgerows from further removal.

Oonagh Duggan, the head of advocacy at BirdWatch Ireland, is expected to tell committee members that Ireland needs to “act like it’s an emergency” in order to tackle the situation.

A Citizens’ Assembly on biodiversity is due to take place in Ireland. Almost three years ago, the Dáil declared a climate and biodiversity emergency. 

One-third of Ireland’s wild bee species is at risk of extinction and 85% of internationally important habitats are in an “unfavourable condition”, she will tell the committee.

Duggan will also say that farmers have a “unique role” in the conservation of biodiversity as part of the committee’s discussion on the draft Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) strategic plan for 2023-2027. 

The Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine will meet at 5.30pm this evening to discuss the CAP plan, hedgerows and biodiversity.

“Biodiversity in Ireland is in A&E,” Duggan is expected to tell committee members. 

Alan Moore from Hedgerows Ireland will tell the committee that Ireland is “failing to value” its hedgerows and should implement legislation to better protect them.

Hedge cuttings are already not permitted to occur during the bird nesting season and it is an offence under the Wildlife Act to cut hedge vegetation between the start of March and the end of August each year, except in express circumstances for road and safety concerns.  

The Journal’s investigative platform Noteworthy recently reported that the National Parks and Wildlife Service brought almost 50 prosecutions for illegal hedge cutting during the bird nesting season last year.

Noteworthy also reported last year that Ireland is losing an abundance of hedgerow each year, with at least 3,000km cut back by local authorities since 2018 during March and August. 

Moore is expected to recommend that immediate steps should be taken to protect remaining hedgerows.

He is due to say that hedgerows are a “fantastic asset” in terms of carbon sequestration and other benefits, but Ireland is “currently failing to value them”.

Hedges being removed or maintained in “poor condition” means they are not providing “all of the multiple benefits that they could be”, he will say.

He will recommend bringing in legal protection for hedgerows by either amending the Wildlife Act or introducing new legislation.

Today’s meeting will also hear from representatives of The Environmental Pillar group to discuss the CAP Strategic Plan.

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