What is the KZN Biodiversity Stewardship Program?
What legislation controls stewardship and proclamation of private land?
What options does a private land owner have to protect important biodiversity assets on their property?
What are the benefits?
Stewardship refers to the wise use, management and protection of that which has been entrusted to you. Within the context of conservation, stewardship means wisely using natural resources that you have been entrusted with on your property, outside the formal protected areas network, to ensure that natural systems, biodiversity and the ecosystem services they provide are maintained and enhanced for present and future generations.
The biological diversity of KwaZulu-Natal is currently inadequately safeguarded, particularly threatened and endangered species and habitats. Lack of resources has inhibited the ability of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW) to acquire critical land that should be formally protected. EKZNW has developed a map of KwaZulu-Natal indicating priority areas for biodiversity protection, which constitutes 1.4 million hectares or 17 percent of the province.
Stewardship allows EKZNW to recognize the role of the private and communal landowner in conservation activities, by providing incentives and benefits to the landowners in compensation for possible restrictions on their land. Hence stewardship categories are the alternatives available to private / communal landowners that wish to set land aside for conservation or utilise that land sustainably with the option of reaping associated benefits.
The Stewardship Vision is as follows:-
To ensure that private and communally-owned areas with high biodiversity value in the province receive secure conservation status and are linked to a network of other conservation areas in the landscape.
To ensure that landowners/users who commit their property to a stewardship option, will enjoy tangible benefits for their conservation actions.
To expand biodiversity conservation outside of formally protected areas by encouraging commitment to, and implementation of good biodiversity management practice, on private or communally-owned land.
This, therefore, translates into a set of strategic formal agreements with private and communal landowners, which together with the current set of formal protected areas secure a representative sample of KZN’s biodiversity in compliance with South Africa’s Protected Areas Act. For the first time, Landowners can actively participate in conservation activities, by setting their land aside for biodiversity conservation. The main difference between the Stewardship approach and other historic informal approaches is that these stewardship agreements are bound within a legal context. A number of pilot projects have been initiated throughout the province. Important areas for conservation are targeted, such as endangered veld types and endangered forms of flora.
Stewardship categories are available comprise (i) Nature Reserve, (ii) Biodiversity Agreement, (iii) Protected Environment, and (iv) Conservation Area. The most significant contribution to biodiversity is the proclamation of a Nature Reserve. Nature Reserves, with respect to the KZN Biodiversity Stewardship Programme, are proclaimed areas that are augmented with legally recognised contracts or servitudes on private communal land to protect biodiversity (proclaimed as a Nature Reserve in terms of Section 23 of NEMA: Protected Areas Act).
Apart from securing the protection of the province’s biodiversity, another potential benefit or incentive for land owners for setting aside an as a “Nature Reserve” would be that that land would be exempt from the payment of municipal rates (Section 17.1 (e) Municipal Property Rates Act). This means that if one was in an area of critical conservation importance (such as areas comprising midlands mistbelt grassland, areas with nesting wattled cranes, areas of particularly high biodiversity, etc) one could set these areas aside for conservation purposes and be exempt from payment of rates on those particular areas. This would be on the proviso that the natural asset you wish to proclaim is considered of significant conservation importance. For example, land that is not suitable for farming but is critical for conservation could therefore be afforded protection from future disturbance and could be taken out of the ratable portion of land. Landowners would then become members of the national network of protected areas and contribute to global conservation as provided for by the Convention of Biodiversity. Stewardship offers the public an opportunity to take care of nature in the long term, even if property is sold onto new owners.
Acknowledgements: Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Biodiversity Stewardship in KwaZulu-Natal, The First Year 2006/2007. The author will not be held responsible for misinterpretatio
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