When the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) set out to advise the State about the conservation of Biodiversity, our area was highlighted.
It featured strongly because –
- it is an ideal place to extend already protected areas (see the National Protected Areas Expansion Strategy)
- it features three threatened ecosystems (one critically threatened)
- and it has the endangered vegetation type found only in Gauteng, the Egoli Granite Grassland
Legislation allows private landowners to participate in conservation. The National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act and the Biodiversity Stewardship Manual provides guidance for the Nature Reserve application.
There are sound ecological reasons, willing landowners and the necessary legal framework to make it possible.
The Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD) is aware of our efforts. Officials advised that landowners sign a Biodiversity Agreement as a “stepping stone”. These agreements will allow the State to add the contracted portions to their database and geographic information systems. It will also allow them to gauge interest and motivate for resources needed.
This initiative is about a community recognising the value of the environmental processes, systems and natural beauty. Formal and structured approaches will mean we can secure our efforts in perpetuity. Landowners are more willing to do the right thing when the effort and money are not at risk - “lost” when a new or different land use is permitted.
Nature Reserve is the best option for us.
What does it mean?
You remain the owner of your land, you continue to live on the land and enjoy it as an asset. An endorsement on your title deed ensures that when you sell to the next owner, you sell “Nature Reserve” and not merely “land”. The new owner therefore has to commit to continuing the conservation effort.
There are restrictions, most of which landowners here already practice. These include –
- No damage or removal of indigenous species
- No ploughing or ripping of the soil
- No burning of refuse (a by-law already)
- No division of land (a policy of the local authority already)
- No introduction of invasive species
- (See more in the Agreement)
When the area is proclaimed a Nature Reserve, we will have objectives to meet and the “teeth” to take action to ensure that we do. The objectives are determined by us; the State audits our progress.
A management authority is elected by the landowners, and that authority enters into a contractual agreement with the State to implement the objectives agreed by the landowners.
The State approves the authority and the environmental management plan that is produced by the landowners. The management plan describes the environmental assets, the management objectives resources and structures.
Participating in this long term conservation initiative has some fiscal benefits (land rate rebates and deduction permitted by the Tax Act). But overwhelmingly the benefit lies in the certainty that what we do here now will persist into the future.
Financial advisers and estate agents indicate that with that certainty comes increased asset value too.
- Ask for, and sign a Biodiversity Agreement, stating the farm name and portion number.
- Indicate on a schematic or aerial photograph (provided) of the land parcel which areas are “conservation” and which are “private”
- Provide copies of title deeds (used to verify ownership and check servitudes)
- Return the agreement, title deed copies and Annexure to the committee (drop boxes at various gates or use the email address to arrange collection)
- The Committee
- collates all agreements,
- maps areas
- completes an assessment form highlighting conservation value
- delivers the documentation and database to the competent authority
Next steps –
The Interim Committee calls a general meeting to take place 29 July 2012
The meeting votes on various items of management, including the constitution and structures, and the environmental management plan.
A Not-for-Profit organisation has been registered as the Management Authority in order to conclude the necessary agreements with the State.
The competent authority follows a legislated process which includes convening a panel, public participation with organs of State and preparing Notices.