Locals protest over hedgerow cutting during National Biodiversity Week

Protecting wildlife: Local says this is the third year in a row hedgerows cut at wrong time

Roadside hedgerows cut back in Cloonfush outside Tuam, Co Galway. Photograph Emer Cosgrove.

Roadside hedgerows cut back in Cloonfush outside Tuam, Co Galway. Photograph Emer Cosgrove.

 

A small group of neighbours living in a townland outside of Tuam, Co Galway, mounted a successful protest on Monday after Galway County Council workers began cutting hedgerows and wild grasslands in their area.

The cutting work was occurring along a boreen through Cloonfush leading to bogland. Two tractors with attached cutters started cutting back brambles and hawthorn used by a variety of birds for nesting.

Cutting hedgerows at this time of year is not permitted in an effort to protect biodiversity.

“It’s just the senselessness of it all,” said local resident Emer Cosgrove. ” It’s really sad and ironic – it’s National Biodiversity Week.”

She contacted her neighbour Anne Quinn, and with two other neighbours, they stood on the verge in an attempt to stop further damage. Dismayed by a “butchering of everything” left in the tractors’ wake, she phoned the council but got no response though she later outlined their concerns to the council’s biodiversity officer.

When they followed the tractors, which were by then cutting vegetation on the bog, Ms Cosgrove said they were told at that point only grass would be cut. But that too should not be happening, she believes.

Safety risk

“We called the guards. They said they wouldn’t do anything as they believed it was not in their remit,” said Ms Cosgrove, who is an adult education teacher.

She accepted local authorities can cut back hedgerows at any time if they believe there is a health and safety risk. “But there is no risk here. It’s a road down to a bog. It could easily have waited until the end of August.”

The area had rich biodiversity including wrens that nest in the hedgerows and goldfinches that eat seedlings on the grasses, and lots of knapweed that encourages pollinators, while stoats, hares and red thrushes are frequently seen in the area.

This is the third year in a row hedgerows were cut back at the wrong time, she claimed. She complained to the local authority each year it happened in the past. “This year we decided we had enough.”

She was not part of an environmental group though she had given talks about climate change. They simply acted out of concern about biodiversity in their locality, she said.

When contacted by The Irish Times, there was no one available for comment at the council’s regional office in Tuam.