In 2017, thousands of hectares of mountain, hill, bog and forest habitat were destroyed during the closed season including the home of a family in County Mayo. The impact on nesting birds including protected species such as Curlews was catastrophic. Extensive upland burning can cause irreparable damage to underlying peat soils with polluting impact on clean water supply. Burning land increases flood risk and releases vast carbon emissions stored in these habitats into the environment.
To avoid a repeat of last year, Michael Creed, Minister for Agriculture, Food & the Marine, has issued a strong warning to farmers and their advisors, of the following in relation to agricultural and eligible forestry land which is burnt illegally during the closed season – i.e. 1st March to 31st August:
If you burn land after the 1st March:
- You risk prosecution
- Such land is not eligible for payment under the Basic Payment Scheme and other area-based schemes;
- Inclusion of illegally burnt land in the 2018 Basic Payment Scheme application may result in reduced payment and penalties under this scheme and the other area-based schemes, e.g. Areas of Natural Constraints Scheme;
- Illegal burning can also render the land of your neighbours ineligible for payment;
- Where it is identified that lands were burnt during the closed season this may result in such land being inspected by Department officials.
The Minister concluded; “Both farmers and the wider public, whether it be at work or in enjoying the countryside, should at this time of year be mindful of the damage caused by burning and should take appropriate care”
The burning of vegetation is controlled by the Wildlife Acts. It is an offence under Section 40 of the Wildlife Act, 1976 (amended by Section 46 of the Wildlife Act, 2000) to burn, from 1st March to 31st August in any year, any vegetation growing on any land not then cultivated. Individuals who are found to burn vegetation within that prohibited period are liable to prosecution by An Garda Síochána or by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). DAFM has no role in regard to prosecutions.
Land that is illegally burnt is ineligible for payment under the area based schemes.
Applicants under the Basic Payment Scheme and other area-based schemes are obliged to comply with Cross Compliance which includes requirements in relation to the burning of vegetation and the consequential damage to designated land. Where an applicant is found, at inspection or on receipt of a Cross Report from NPWS, to have been responsible for breaching these requirements a penalty can be applied to payments due under these schemes.
Land found to have been burned during the specified closed season for burning is considered automatically ineligible under the various support schemes