NATIONAL NEWS - The public is invited to comment on the intention to declare all the indigenous forests in Grey Dell and Fort Grey in the Eastern Cape, as a natural forest and controlled forest area, under the National Forests Act of 1998.
A natural forest is a group of indigenous trees, whose crowns are largely contiguous; or which have been declared by the Forestry, Fisheries and Environment Minister to be a natural forest, under section 7 of the National Forests Act.
They must not be destroyed, save in exceptional circumstances where, in the opinion of the Minister, a proposed new land use is preferable, in terms of its economic, social or environmental benefits.
“Declaring the identified areas as controlled forests is an urgent measure to avert deforestation and forest degradation caused by, among others, illegal activities that have reportedly taken place in the areas. It will also enable forest rehabilitation, given that no person may cut, disturb, damage or destroy any indigenous tree in the controlled forest areas,” Minister Barbara Creecy explained.
The declaration further requires owners of the identified areas to take a number of steps, such as control of access to the land covered by the declaration, to prevent entry by unauthorised persons or vehicles; removal of unauthorised structures, dwellings and artefacts associated with informal/illegal settlement and drafting of a sustainable management plan, among others.
Creecy said the areas and properties that fall within the scope of the declaration are considered as an integrated functioning ecosystem, some parts of which have been degraded and deforested, and include all natural wooded land, interspersed open land and plantation patches on the designated properties.
“These forests are some of the most significant carbon sinks within the municipal area of Buffalo City and deforestation is causing emissions of greenhouse gasses that contribute to climate change.
“The forests are also vitally important for the conservation of biodiversity, with endemic trees and rare wildlife occurring there. Furthermore, the forests contribute towards the portfolio of tourism opportunities within the Metro, and the illegal activities are causing safety concerns for visitors,” Creecy said.
The intention to declare all the indigenous forests in Grey Dell and Fort Grey was published by the Minister in Government Gazettes 43699 (Notice no 972) and 43700 (Notice no 973), respectively, on 10 September 2020.
Members of the public are invited to submit written comments or inputs within 14 days after publication of the notice to The Acting Director-General, Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (Forestry Branch) for the attention of AR Madula Private Bag X447, Pretoria, 0001.
The gazettes can be accessed on National Forest Act (84/1998): Consultation on the intention to declare the Grey Dell and Fort Grey Forests Areas a controlled forest area under section 17(2) of the Act [G 43699 – GoN 972] https://www.environment.gov.za/sites/default/files/gazetted_notices/nfa_greydellfortgreycontrolledforestdeclaration_g43699gon972.pdf.
National Forest Act (84/1998): Consultation on intention to declare the Grey Dell and Fort Grey Forests Areas as natural forest under section 7(2) of the Act [G 43700 – GoN 973] https://www.environment.gov.za/sites/default/files/gazetted_notices/nfa_greydellfortgreyforestdeclaration_g43700gon973.pdf. - SAnews.gov.za