Listening And Wondering?
Just now I am listening to Drivetime; RTE Radio 1. Its mid July 2014 and we are in the middle of a heatwave. They are talking about heat, drought and how cattle make for the cool shelter of the hedges as the day heats up. Poetic stuff, RTE stuff, for city people maybe... but what possible shade and shelter from the sun can animals find now in our hedges, sheared and stumped as they are by our governments misnamed environmental schemes. How can such hedges provide shade or shelter or safety for anything now; either birds, wildlife or cattle. How can they hold water at their roots and base, as they always did, thus ensuring against drought, how can they provide shade for anything, even humans as they did for centuries when allowed grow and billow out naturally? Is it not time to beak another taboo and expose this hedge cutting/hedge destruction as environmental madness?
Clauses. Listen in as our politicians, waffle on about how Ireland has the best environmental safeguards in Europe, how they have people on the ground, how so much is protected etc. Listen in often as they quote the restraints included in both our Wildlife and Forestry Acts, the two primary pieces of legalisation we have for environmental protection. These acts do have a lot about what you cannot do; but seldom do you hear about the opt out clauses, the pieces of writings on what you can do! These "opt outs", are tiny and written in legal speak and are inserted into these acts for the sake of farming and business. They allow just about anything be done, if done “under the normal course of farming, forestry, road building or under health and safety needs”. Such clauses are small, hard to find and often difficult to understand, yet they are so broad in practice that they have the effect of making all the other stuff about restraint, care and safeguard, null and void. This means that in reality there is little if any protection for natural wild growth, habitat or the things that needs this. So we ae really allowed to cut, remove and flail with glee!
Consider these: A huge oak tree, 300 years old, healthy, disease free and standing 30 meters from a building is protected under the 1946 Forestry Act and must have a protection order placed on it, while a person who wishes to fell it, seeks and obtains a felling licence. Or it can be felled under the normal course of farming, without question. It can also be felled if the remains of a hut is nearer it than 30 meters to it, as such are in most cities and towns. It can also be deemed unsafe and felled at will. That huge Oak tree in reality is at the mercy of anyone’, thats our law.
FSC. A wood, billowing out green and full of both nesting birds and protected wildlife in reproduction times is covered and protected by our Wildlife Act 2001. It is protected to a degree that should make us proud; but it too can be felled if done under the normal course of forestry. Nothing can be done about that. Coillte for instance did just that at Lismullen in 2011. They also use the FSC certificate when selling the wood, a certificate that proves the wood was felled and harvested in an environmental way.
Hedges. Hedges; old, healthy and the repository of much of our flora and fauna are habitats of immense value. They are a means of soil and water retention, they provide shade and shelter, food supply, nesting and resting places and they give our land the green look it is re-known for. They too are protected under both acts but these too can be removed under the normal course of farming or under health and safety laws. Indeed a whole landscape of these can now be removed totally, incrementally and yearly, if done under the New Farm Measures introduced by Irish Government Ministers Simon Coveney and Phil Hogan in 2011. This is considered now as a normal course of farming!
An avenue of great Beech Trees can be protected and cherished by everyone, but they can be removed too by a developer who buys the property they stand on, if he can find someone who determines that the trees are diseased. That person needs no qualification other than to term themselves an Aborist. He needs prove “diseased” to no one. A training and degree in Arboriculture does not exist in Ireland and it seems it never will. Such a study might hinder all of the above from happening. This happened all through the Celtic Tiger everywhere.
Tree protection orders can be placed on trees of importance and they sometimes are but again many of these trees are subject to the above clauses and can be removed as fast as the protection orders can be removed, if deemed unsafe etc. The National Botanic Gardens have been doing this regularly.
The Emerald Isle; that’s us!