Minister Madigan will not extend burning season into March
Ms Josepha Madigan TD, Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, announced today (28 February 2019) that she would not make regulations to extend the season for the burning of vegetation into March.
Section 40 of the Wildlife Acts restricts the cutting, grubbing, burning or destruction of vegetation growing on uncultivated land or in hedges or ditches during the nesting and breeding season for birds and wildlife, from 1 March to 31 August.
The Heritage Act 2018 provides that the Minister may make regulations to allow the burning of vegetation in March. During the passage of the Heritage Act through the Dáil and the Seanad, it had always been made clear by the Minister Madigan (and her predecessor) that the need for such regulations would take account of weather conditions.
The Minister said that following extensive consideration in her Department of Met Éireann data, it was clear that rainfall in Ireland during the 6 months when it was permissible to burn under the law (i.e. from September 2018 to February 2019) was significantly below average. Overall, nationally rainfall for the 6 month period was some 10.49% below the 30 year mean.
This was particularly the case in the first two months of the year which have been exceptionally dry compared to average rainfall. Overall in these 2 months, rainfall across the country has been some 29.57% below the 30 year average. Temperatures during January and February this year have also been above average.
The Minister said that “weather conditions would not have precluded landowners from burning vegetation during the 6 month period when this could have been done under the law and accordingly there is no basis for me to extend the legal period for burning into March”.
She added that “The burning provision in Section 7(1) of the Heritage Act was never intended to be a blanket approval for widespread nationwide burning of vegetation during the month of March. It has always been made clear that the provision was designed as a failsafe mechanism to be deployed to facilitate landowners to burn vegetation during March if weather conditions during the prescribed open period for burning (from September to end of February) were such as to prevent such burning.
In addition, the Minister has noted with huge concern the outbreak of a number of serious wildfires such as those which are out of control in the Wicklow/Dublin mountains. These fires underline the fact that ground conditions are dry and that an extension to allow burning in March would not only be unwarranted but would indeed be irresponsible at this time.