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Minister of State Shane McEntee Warns of Risks posed by Illegal and Uncontrolled Land Burning

Shane McEntee TD, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with responsibility for forestry, today reminded landowners that it is illegal to burn vegetation on land at this time of year. The Minister was speaking in response to recent reports of illegal burning taking place in South Kerry and elsewhere.

Under the Wildlife Act 1976 (as amended) it is illegal to burn growing vegetation on land not then cultivated, between 1st March and 31st August in any year.  Minister McEntee said; "Setting fire to growing vegetation at this time of year is not only an extremely dangerous practice, it is also illegal. I am deeply concerned that the irresponsible and illegal actions of a minority of landowners could lead to the widespread devastation caused by illegal land burning as witnessed during the springs of 2010 and 2011.

Uncontrolled land burning significantly increases the risk of forest fires and consequently risks the lives of rural dwellers, their property, and their livelihoods. Over the past two years, hundreds of hectares of forestry were destroyed due to illegal and careless land burning, while we continue to count the cost of damage to wildlife and natural habitats”.

The Minister extended his sincerest gratitude to the Emergency Services for their relentless efforts, each year, to protect lives and property from destruction by fire and called on all rural dwellers, farmers, forest owners, landowners and especially those that own, rent, lease or manage commonage, to unite in their response against the unacceptable behaviour of a small minority of careless and reckless people.

Regarding his Department's response to the ongoing threat from those determined to break the law in the context of illegal land burning, the Minister warned; "It is a source of profound concern to me and my officials, that worried citizens in South Kerry and other areas of the south west have already reported instances of illegal scrub burning, in some cases after dark, despite repeated warnings of the consequences highlighted in recent publicity campaigns".

Landowners found guilty of illegal burning will be subject to fines or possible imprisonment. Penalties under the Department's Support Payments for Farmers (e.g. Single Payment, Disadvantaged Areas) may also be imposed. In conclusion, the Minister said; “I want to make it clear that any person found engaging in illegal burning activity will face the rigours of the law and will also risk the loss of their Single Farm Payment.

Date Released: 22 March 2012