Minister calls for tougher regulations as wildfires rage again

Landowners lit multiple fires to clear scrub during an Orange Fire Alert in recent days, amid warnings the risk of a fire getting out of control was high.

Firefighters in many parts of the country battled dozens of hillside and open country fires, particularly in Counties Kerry, Carlow, Wicklow, Dublin and Sligo and the Mournes.

Some counties saw multiple outbreaks in multiple locations.

Pippa Hackett, Green Party Minister for Land Use and Biodiversity, condemned the incidents, saying even if they were legal they should not have happened.

Secretary Hackett said landowners should do what is right, not what the law dictates.

She made her appeal to landowners, including public bodies, to trim hedges and clear verges just as breeding season is in full swing.

She posted a series of images on social media illustrating her point and refused to back down after a backlash.

“I am Minister for Land Use and Biodiversity and will speak out against bad and unnecessary practices when I see them,” she wrote.

“Some might turn a blind eye – I won’t. Of course, certain actions are sometimes necessary and even legal, but that doesn’t mean it’s always the right thing to do.

“This applies to both farmers and public institutions. Nature is under enormous pressure. The ecology is collapsing.”

Destroying vegetation by fire or other methods is illegal during the growing and breeding season from March 1st to August 31st, but some exceptions are allowed for safety and agricultural reasons.

However, incidents outnumber exceptions, and even when they are granted, wildlife experts say they are rarely warranted.

“Removal of trees and vegetation may well be some form of derogation from the law, but removal during breeding season is simply not right or fair,” she wrote.

A spokesman for Ms Hackett said she was called for comment after seeing bushes being burned over the weekend, when nesting season was underway and an orange fire alarm was issued.

Burning agricultural waste, including dead plants, is one of the exceptions allowed, but the minister’s spokesman said she would have that checked.

“The minister is asking her department to … examine whether there is another way of dealing with this so that this is the last year in which a specific exemption will be granted,” he said.

While many of the fires have been small and their cause is rarely established, traditionally some farmers burn at this time of year to clear gorse and scrub so grass can grow for grazing.

Gorse fires raged across a large area of ​​Kerry on Sunday, raising fears of a repeat of last April’s devastating Killarney National Park fire.

The worst hit was land between Currow and Kilcummin, north of Killarney, where firefighters battled last year’s park fire for days.

Local environmentalist Fred O’Sullivan said the area was “teeming with wildlife.”

He had been walking the hill earlier on Sunday and had noticed several bird species including skylark, sedge bunting, stonechat, hen harrier and snipe.

He had also observed rabbits, a protected animal.

“Tonight they’re being pulled out,” he said on social media after posting dramatic footage of the mound burning.

The Kerry Fire Brigade have also had a number of other responses including to a major fire at Ballinskelligs in south Kerry. Minister calls for tougher regulations as wildfires rage again

Fry Electronics Team

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