A Mayo landowner has been convicted and fined €500 with five months to pay at Castlebar District Court for vegetation destruction during bird nesting season in the townland of Largan, Tulrohan, Co Mayo.
The man in question is David Hester Jnr of Culnacleha, Tulrohuan, Claremorris, Co Mayo, who entered a plea via Thomas Walsh Solicitors to an offence under Section 40 of the Wildlife Acts related to the destruction of vegetation on lands not then cultivated during the statutory bird nesting season.
Hester received a separate charge under Section 23 of the Wildlife Act, for the wilful destruction of the breeding or resting place of a protected wild mammal (badger) was struck out on entering the guilty plea to the Section 40 offence.
The case was taken by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and prosecuted by Brendan McDonagh BL and Vincent Deane, state solicitor for Co Mayo.
An eight- to 10-metre strip of vegetation constituting 17% of the total woodland area had been removed around the block of the 1.6ha native woodland
District conservation officer Eugene Finnerty of the NPWS said that conservation rangers encountered men in the process of removing vegetation from the perimeter of a natural Ash/Hazel broadleaf woodland in the townland of Largan, Tulrohan, Co Mayo.
An eight- to 10-metre strip of vegetation constituting 17% of the total woodland area had been removed around the block of the 1.6ha native woodland over a period of time, some of which was within the bird nesting season.
There was also no felling licence in place.
In mitigation and a plea to apply the probation act, Mr Hester, through his solicitor, claimed he was not aware of the bird nesting season and had to fence his property due to issues with trespassing livestock.
He also outlined he had already been penalised €1,000 with a further potential €1,000 to be deducted in 2022 in his Department of Agriculture Basic Payment Scheme monies following a cross compliance report to DAFM by NPWS in relation to the removal of vegetation associated with this incident.
Judge Deirdre Gearty said the bird nesting season, which runs from 1 March to the end of August, was commonly known and proceeded to convict Mr Hester under Section 40 of the Wildlife Acts and issued a €500 fine with five months to pay. The Section 23 charge was struck out.
NPWS has brought over 70 Section 40 prosecutions nationally since 2020 with nearly 30 more in the courts system
NPWS has noted an increase in reports from the public of Wildlife Act, Section 40 incidents with a corresponding increase in cases before the Courts.
NPWS has brought over 70 Section 40 prosecutions nationally since 2020 with nearly 30 more in the courts system or with the Chief State Solicitors Office.
NPWS would appeal to landowners to be fully aware of their legal responsibilities in terms of Section 40 of the Wildlife Acts - removal of vegetation during the bird nesting season from lands not then cultivated or from any hedge or ditch.
Landowners in receipt of EU Basic Payment Scheme monies should also be fully aware of any requirements that may apply under EU Basic Payment Scheme Rules and Cross Compliance.