With the news of all the recent forest and gorse fires sweeping the nation, The Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) have today announced their opinion on the matter. They have called on both Ministers, Heather Humphreys and Minister Michael Creed, to finally take the necessary action to change legal burning dates within the Heritage Bill.
According to CAP spokesman Colm O’Donnell, the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has failed to inspire us of his leadership skills, especially by ignoring the fact that burning is an agricultural activity in the uplands. It is an activity in the same way that re seeding and the topping of green land are.
Together with grazing, controlled burning is a necessary and essential way of maintaining the uplands in a state suitable for grazing and cultivation according to the CAP spokesperson, O’Donnell. Despite this, Michael Creed states, "As regards the maintenance of mountain and hill land, generally the only way of keeping it in an eligible state is with an adequate level of livestock appropriate to the conditions."
The burning of mature vegetation in the months of March has always traditionally being a method used by hill farmers. It was always done in March as conditions were more favourable, with the dry grounds at this time allowing for the carrying out of controlled burning safely. This is without damaging whole of the local ecosystem and affecting ground nesting birds and other animals. Colm O’Donnell said that “No level of expertise could carry out this activity when the ground is too wet or indeed too dry as is currently the case,".
He went on to say that the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, needs to offer support to Minister Humphreys’ proposal to extend the burning dates to include the month of March. He also went on to say that farmers will then need vital supports from the Local Authorities, Fire Service, the DAFM and the NPWS to rectify this “monster” which has been created by bad legislation.