Farmer faces potential €1,000 BPS deduction after vegetation clearing

A farmer told Caslebar District Court in County Mayo that he faced a £1,000 deduction from his Basic Payments Scheme (BPS) in 2022 for clearing vegetation during the nesting season for birds.

At a court session on Wednesday last week (January 5), the farmer in question, from Claremorris, pleaded guilty via Thomas Walsh Solicitors to an offense under Section 40 of the Wildlife Act, which relates to the destruction of vegetation on then uncultivated land during the statutory bird nesting season.

Based on this plea, a separate charge under Section 23 of the Wildlife Act – the willful destruction of the breeding or resting place of a protected wild mammal (badger) – was struck out.

The case was taken up by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) – which falls under the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage – and prosecuted by Brendan McDonagh BL and Vincent Deane, State Attorney for Co. Mayo .

The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage released a statement today (Tuesday 11 January) outlining the facts of the case.

District Conservation Officer Eugene Finnerty of the NPWS told Judge Deirdre Gearty that the April 21, 2020, Conservation rangers encountered men clearing vegetation from the perimeter of a natural ash/hazel hardwood forest in the town of Largan, Tulrohan, Co. Mayo.

The NPWS argued that an eight to 10m strip of vegetation, constituting 17% of the total woodland area, had been removed around the native timber block over a period of time, some of it during the nesting season. birds.

The NPWS further argued that there was no felling permit in place.

The defendant argued through his solicitor that he was “unaware of the bird nesting season” and had to fence his property due to cattle trespassing issues.

The farmer also pointed out that he had already been penalized €1,000, with a potential additional €1,000 to be deducted in 2022 from his BPS money, following a conditionality report to the Ministry of Agriculture , Food and Navy by the NPWS in relation to this. incident.

Judge Deirdre Gearty said the birds’ nesting season – which runs from March 1 to the end of August – was well known and proceeded to convict the defendant under Section 40 of the Wildlife Act , delivering a €500 fine with five months to pay.

In its statement today, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage said the NPWS has “noted an increase in public reporting of Section 40 Wildlife Act incidents, with a corresponding increase in cases before the courts”.

According to the department, the NPWS has filed more than 70 Section 40 lawsuits since 2020, and 30 more are currently in court or with the state attorney general’s office.

“The NPWS calls on landowners to be fully aware of their legal responsibilities under Section 40 of the Wildlife Acts – removal of vegetation during bird nesting season on uncultivated land or any hedgerow or ditch “, adds the press release.

He concluded: “Landowners receiving EU BPS funds should also be fully aware of any requirements that apply under EU BPS rules and cross-compliance.”

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