Dáil Éireann - Volume 496 - 10 November, 1998
Written Answers. - Rural Environment Protection Scheme.
Mr. Sargent Mr. Sargent
355. Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands the plans, if any, she has to address the destruction of rural hedgerows and the attendant loss of biodiversity in terms of landscape, flora and fauna which has arisen from the implementation of the REP scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22355/98]
Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands (Miss de Valera) Síle de Valera
Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands (Miss de Valera): I should initially draw the attention of the Deputy to the fact that the REP scheme is administered by the Department of Agriculture and Food.
The Rural Environment Protection Scheme — REPS — is designed to reward farmers for carrying out their activities in an environmentally friendly manner. Under the scheme, protection is afforded to hedgerows under measures 4, 5 and Supplementary Measure 1. The relevant provisions are as follows: Measure 4 — Retain Wildlife Habitats: the objective of this measure is to retain wildlife habitats such as hedgerows. Any interference with specified habitats such as the hedgerow, can only be carried out as part of an agreed plan under REPS. Measure 5 —Maintain Farm and Field Boundaries: the objective of this measure is to maintain boundary and road-side fences and stone walls and to manage hedgerows in the interests of stock control, wildlife and scenic appearance of the area. Farmers and land-owners are required to prepare a five year management and maintenance plan for existing hedgerows on their farms. Where the upkeep of the hedgerows and stonewalls is required over the period of the plan, the work should be carried out in proportionate stages and on a phased basis. Supplementary Measure 1 — the objective of this measure is to conserve environmentally sensitive NHAs of national as well as international significance.
The clear objective of REPS is to, inter alia, contribute to the conservation of biodiversity, and the scheme includes specific measures such as those mentioned which are intended to deliver this. In addition to REPS, there are a number of  other measures which provide for the conservation of hedgerows. The Deputy will be aware that hedgerows are currently afforded protection by means of section 40 of the Wildlife Act, 1976, and regulation 26 of the European Communities (Natural Habitats) Regulations, 1997, which transposed Article 10 of the EU habitats directive.
The Deputy should also be aware that the issue of hedgerow conservation, including any further possible legal or other measures which might be required, if any, is presently being considered by me in the context of the forthcoming amendment of the Wildlife Act, 1976, and the development of a national biodiversity plan.
Dáil Éireann 496 Written Answers. Rural Environment Protection Scheme.