A Mayo farmer has been fined €4,000 and received a 20% penalty to his farm payments for the destruction of vegetation during bird nesting season.
Alan Heaney, Killasser, Swinford, Co Mayo, pleaded guilty to two offences under the Wildlife Act.
The offences took place on 1 May 2020 at Creggagh, Foxford, Co Mayo, where an excavator was witnessed actively grubbing out and completely removing trees and scrub.
There were reportedly numerous piles of freshly removed vegetation over an area of approximately 1.9 acres.
The charges related to Section 40 of the Wildlife Act, the destruction of vegetation on lands not then cultivated during the statutory bird nesting season and Section 69 relating to procuring the commissioning of an offence under the act.
The machine operator admitted carrying out the works for the landowner, Heaney, who was subsequently interviewed and admitted he had commissioned the works, but was not aware of the requirements.
Conservation ranger Irene O’Brien of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) outlined the facts of the case to Judge Fiona Lydon.
O’Brien and her colleague Hazel Doyle visited lands owned by Mr Heaney on 1 May 2020 and witnessed hedgerows being removed.
The judge directed Mr Heaney to pay €4,000 to the Native Woodland Trust charity on the charge.
In summing up, Judge Lydon remarked that since the pandemic began, people took a lot of solace and mental well-being from connecting with nature and bird life and that the accused should have been more mindful of his actions and his responsibilities and that we need to ensure the preservation of our natural habitats and woodlands.
The case was concluded at the 12 October sitting of Ballina District Court, with the fines paid to the nominated charity and the charges struck out.
The requirements of Section 40 state that is an offence to remove vegetation on lands not then cultivated or from any hedge or ditch during the bird nesting period that runs from 1 March until 31 August every year and the importance of these habitats to Ireland’s bird species.
The NPWS has noted an increase in the number of reports of the complete removal of hedgerows and vegetation on lands not cultivated during the statutory bird nesting season.
These are predominantly done for agricultural improvement reasons.