Western Cape landowners have contributed to the province’s protected area estate by 49 081 hectares, through agreements with conservation authority, CapeNature. The authority has consolidated most of the agreements over its last financial year.
“Up to 80% of land with valuable and threatened biodiversity in South Africa lies in private hands – a significant percentage of this land is used for farming or ecotourism” says Dr Kas Hamman, CapeNature’s Executive Director of Biodiversity.
“Private landowners are playing an increasingly important role to keep biodiversity intact and sustain economic growth and development” Dr Hamman added.
CapeNature has set up 38 contract nature reserves (49 081ha), 19 Biodiversity Agreements (12 230 ha) and 24 Voluntary sites reaching 20 500 ha, over the last five years.
The agreements are voluntary and set up in terms of CapeNature’s Biodiversity Stewardship Programme, advocating the wise use of natural resources on private land, through for example, fire and alien vegetation management and sustainable farming practises.
The latest of the agreements (with private landowners) are currently open for public comment, following a notice published by Western Cape Provincial Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, Anton Bredell.
Bredell has called for the public to provide written representation or objections to the proposed declaration of 19 private properties as contract nature reserves, in terms of the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, 2003 (Act no. 57 of 2003). The closing date for submission of comment is 17 July 2010.
The properties are located close to Citrusdal, Botrivier, Ladysmith and Tulbagh. Once it is proclaimed as Contract Nature Reserves it will enjoy the same status as Provincial Nature Reserves.
Bredell confirmed that the Western Cape is leading the way in the country with its programme to increase protected areas and securing biodiversity for its people and the economic drivers of the province.
Hamman explained that healthy biodiversity provides ecosystem services such as the production of clean air, clean water and prevention of erosion and carbon storage to counteract global warming.
MORE ON STEWARDSHIP
CAPENATURE’S THREE STEWARDSHIP OPTIONS
The Three Stewardship options that the CapeNature Conservation Stewardship Programme (aimed at increasing the protected area estate) promotes include:
- Contract Nature Reserves – Contract Nature Reserves are legally recognized contracts or servitudes on private land to protect biodiversity in the long term.
- Biodiversity Agreements – Biodiversity Agreements are negotiated legal agreements between the conservation agency and a landowner for conserving biodiversity in the medium term.
- Conservation Areas – Conservation Areas are flexible options with no defined period of commitment (includes conservancies)
Landowners entering into a Biodiversity Stewardship agreement with CapeNature enjoy professional advice and support from dedicated CapeNature staff. A management plan, with the input and consent of the landowner is drawn up to guide and schedule management actions and responsibilities.
CapeNature also undertakes to source management support for landowners by lobbying for funds to implement scheduled management activities. CapeNature have partnered with a number of organizations to achieve this, such organizations include LandCare, WWF’s Table Mountain Fund and Working for Water.
MUNICIPAL RATES EXCLUSIONS
A significant incentive available in South Africa at this stage for Contract Nature Reserves is municipal rates exclusions for the conserved area, as provided for in the Local Government Municipal Property Rates Act 2004. This means that the landowner will not have to pay rates on the portion of their property that is subject to a stewardship contract, provided no commercial or agricultural activity takes place. The owner will still be liable for rates on any improvements to the property.
The development of a suite of Fiscal Incentives by South African Revenue Services has been made possible by the strong legal platform developed through the Stewardship Programme. The value of land is deemed to be a Section 18A deductible donation. This means that the taxpayer may deduct the value of the land from their taxable income. This deduction must follow some prescribed guidelines, as outlined in the Revenue Laws Amendment Act 60 of 2008.
All conservation and maintenance expenses incurred in terms of a Contract Nature Reserve are to be treated as expenditure incurred in the production of income and for purposes of trade. Examples of these expenses could be rehabilitation expenses, alien clearing or burning fire breaks. However, expenses are only deductible if the activity is reflected in the management plan connected to the Contract Nature Reserve.
The fiscal mechanisms described above are effective from this tax year and can be found in the Revenue Laws Amendment Bill 2008, Section 46. Currently available on National Treasury’s website: http://www.treasury.gov.za
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