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Minister Hayes Reminds Farmers and Landowners of the Risks Associated with Uncontrolled Burning of Vegetation

The Minister of State for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Tom Hayes, TD, today said ‘I am concerned that some farmers affected by the ongoing review of land eligibility being conducted by the Department may be tempted to clear areas of scrub, thereby restoring the land to full eligibility. In that regard he reminded farmers that as already stated there is no reason to do. He also warned farmers and other land owners of the risks associated with uncontrolled burning. "Setting fire to growing vegetation is not only an extremely dangerous practice, it is also illegal. It is completely unacceptable for a person to  act so thoughtlessly as to set fire to vegetation and then to  simply walk away from the consequences of that action, when those  consequences could destroy the very  lives and livelihoods of their own neighbours.  I am taking this opportunity to call on all rural dwellers, farmers, forest owners, landowners and especially those that own, rent, lease or manage commonage, to unite in their response against the unacceptable behaviour of a small minority of careless and reckless people."

In recent years, thousands of acres of valuable forestry were lost due to illegal and careless land burning, while the extent of the destruction of wildlife and natural habitats remains incalculable. ‘Burning land or vegetation is extremely dangerous’ said Minister Hayes, adding ‘Wildfires are generally the result of either unforeseen or careless actions. Gorse will burn readily in all seasons and although fires occur throughout the year, the risk is greatest during dry spells from March to June when ground vegetation is dormant and dry. The risk increases with decreasing humidity and increasing wind speed. Most people significantly underestimate the intense flammability of vegetation and the speed at which a relatively small fire can become out of control. Fire risk substantially increases with the presence of people who are untrained, ill prepared, uninformed, or inexperienced in managing a controlled fire’.

Minister Hayes confirmed that this year there will be a co-ordinated effort to tackle the instances of wildfire outbreak and to monitor the burning activities of landowners. ‘I welcome the support of all responsible stakeholders in achieving this goal and I want to make it clear that, until 31st of August, the burning of growing vegetation is prohibited.  Any person found breaching this prohibition risks prosecution, fines and imprisonment. Any farmer found engaging in illegal burning will face the same rigours of the law and also risk the loss of their Single Farm Payment’ he said.

Minister Hayes also pointed out that habitats designated in Natura 2000 areas, namely Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Areas (SPA), are protected under national and EU legislation. Where lands are designated certain activities, such as land reclamation and scrub removal, are prohibited without prior approval from the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Failure to abide by the designated “Actions Requiring Consent” can result in prosecutions. In addition, under the requirements of Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC) farmers are prohibited from burning growing vegetation and cutting hedges during the bird nesting season. Breaches of these requirements can be brought to the attention of my Department and sanctions can be applied to any direct payments received by the party or parties concerned. ‘My Department has also allowed REPS farmers on exiting the Scheme to retain newly created REPS habitats for the  duration of the Scheme to continue to receive payments on these areas thereby protecting these habitats’ he said.

Concluding, Minister Hayes urged all forest owners to ensure that all fire breaks and fire lines are checked: ‘Prior to and during the fire season, fire breaks should be inspected and cleared of all vegetation. This will help impede the progress of any possible fire and will also allow safer access to fire fighters to the scene of a fire.’

 

Note for Editors

Before anyone would even consider setting a controlled fire they must answer YES to the following questions.

 

  • Is a fire ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY?
  • IF I START A FIRE CAN I STOP IT?
  • Am I WITHIN THE LEGALLY PERMITTED PERIOD for controlled burning?
  • Am I WITHIN 1 MILE OF A WOODLAND OR FOREST?
  • Is MY FIRE PLAN thoroughly prepared?
  • Am I certain that my property and my neighbour’s property will be SAFE?
  • Have I NOTIFIED MY NEIGHBOURS and the OWNERS OF NEARBY FORESTRY PLANTATIONS or WOODLANDS?
  • Have I notified the GARDA SIOCHANA, the LOCAL AUTHORITY and the FIRE SERVICE Regional Control Centre?
  • Have I SUFFICENT HELP AND EQUIPMENT on standby to control the planned fire?
  • Am I sure that I have ADEQUATE MEANS OF COMMUNICATION with others should an emergency arise?

View Press Release as a PDF:  DAFMPR 36/2014 (pdf 657Kb) 

Date Released: 14 March 2014