Not content with blocking coursing ban, Minister now hacking hedges
31 July 2016
"Minister Heather Humphreys wants to extend the six-month period for hedge-cutting and burning of uplands...Not content with blocking a ban on hare coursing earlier this summer, she's now hacking away at the hedges that home our wildlife." Read Fiona O'Connell's latest Lay of the Land column.
Lay of the Land: Ministers hack away at upland wildlife habitats
by Fiona O'Connell
Sunday Independent, 31/07/2016
It's the last day of July - though try telling that to the wildlife around this country town, who seem to think it's still spring. If you needed proof that our seasons are out of sync, look no further than our fellow creatures.
Hedgehogs came out of hibernation a month early, causing havoc for their hoglets. Ducklings are still hatching, while birds continue to churn out chicks, constantly visiting the food stations in my backyard in an effort to manage all those miniature mouths. Meanwhile, the bats in the barn disappeared for over a month, before resurfacing last week.
Climate change presents a real challenge for our wildlife - which already has enough to wrestle with, thanks to ever diminishing habitats and the side-effects of modern agricultural practices. All too often the stench of silage overpowers the scent of summer roses.
And people are noticing. I've lost count of the number of locals who complain that farming is destroying our environment, or remark on the decline in flock numbers. Yet our increasingly misnamed Minister for Heritage continues to crush their concerns - as well as the scientifically-based evidence presented by all our major conservation groups. Not content with blocking a ban on hare coursing earlier this summer, she's now hacking away at the hedges that home our wildlife.
Minister Heather Humphreys wants to extend the six-month period for hedge-cutting and burning of uplands - even though a provision allowing cutting to ensure road safety already exists. And despite the fact that Birdwatch Ireland, An Taisce and the Irish Wildlife Trust have repeatedly warned that it will devastate wildlife, ringing the death knell for severely endangered species such as the red-listed yellowhammer, linnet and greenfinch birds, the curlew and other breeding waders.
They have already been undermined by agricultural intensification - which also impacts on pollinators, a third of which are threatened with extinction.
A record-breaking 11,000 people signed a petition in just four days to back their united campaign against changing the law to further accommodate farming agendas. Yet as Birdwatch Ireland's Oonagh Duggan said, the "environmental voice and care for nature in Ireland is just not being heard by this Government".
Our decision makers put business in the most short-term and superficial sense first, viewing wildlife as irrelevant wallpaper. The attitude is that the birds, bees and little beasts can just tough it out.
Yet hedgerows are also essential for flood defences, preventing soil erosion and the silting of rivers as well as carbon sequestration. Will business help when we next face floods?
"If this Government is interested in the future of our natural environment and its ability to provide us with essential ecosystem services, it must reverse this ill-judged decision," said Irish Wildlife Trust's Lorraine Bull.
Or face the wrath of the natural world when our wildlife is wiped out.
Make a donation to ICABS
Please consider making a donation to ICABS. For more details, please click on the button below or follow this link to find out how to become a campaign supporter. Thank you.