A Kilkenny man has been convicted and fined €2,000 for the removal of 112 metres of hedgerow and the grubbing at a further 180 metres of hedgerow on his land.
On Monday, at Waterford District Court, Mr John Murphy (68) of Ballynaboley, Kilmacow, C0 Kilkenny, pleaded guilty to the destruction of the growing vegetation in a hedgerow between March 1st and August 31st contrary to Section 40 of the Wildlife Acts.
The offence took place on and around April 14th, 2021.
The offence was investigated by the National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.
It was prosecuted under the Wildlife Acts by William Maher BL, instructed by Gerald Meaney, State Solicitor for County Kilkenny.
In his evidence to the Court, an NPWS Conservation Ranger told Judge David Staunton that on April 14th he travelled to Mullinavat to investigate a complaint from a member of the public that hedgerows were being destroyed.
On site, he found a machine and piles of vegetation which he believed had come from a hedgerow dividing two fields. The Ranger observed that some vegetation had fresh leaves on it.
Follow-up enquiries lead him to the farmyard of Mr Murphy whom he interviewed.
The Conservation Ranger acknowledged that some work may have commenced before March 1st but that the majority was carried out after that date and right up to the day he called to the property.
The NPWS Conservation Ranger outlined to the court that all birds were protected by law, and that the removed hedgerow and grubbed vegetation from another section of hedgerow would have provided nesting opportunities for many farmland bird species.
The court was informed that the bird nesting season is widely advertised and commonly known amongst farmers and farming organisations.
In summing up, Judge David Staunton took into account the guilty plea and that as a farmer Mr Murphy was carrying out works to improve his farm.
However, he commented that this was not the taking out of a bush or pruning back of a tree, and he described the removal of 112 metres of hedgerow as major activity.
Judge Staunton stated that he was impressed with the evidence provided by the NPWS Conservation Ranger.
He said that the work carried out by Mr Murphy was a blatant disregard for a piece of legislation and that it was important such legislation was not ignored when it suited.
Judge Staunton convicted Mr. Murphy and fined him €2,000 with six months to pay.
Minister of State for Heritage, Minister Malcolm Noonan, said:“I welcome this conviction for major hedgerow destruction during the nesting season.
“Hedgerows are superhighways for nature, connecting habitats and species and providing important nesting and foraging opportunities for wildlife. They also sequester carbon, help with water filtration and attenuation, and purify the air.
“We need them in our landscapes and should be nurturing them.
“I’d like to acknowledge the sterling efforts and dedication of the NPWS staff involved in bringing this prosecution, and indeed the efforts of staff all around the country who successfully closed 21 prosecutions in 2021 and 21 more to date in 2022, and are currently progressing a further 47.”