Garden Route project set for cash injection

A year after its inception, the visionary Eden to Addo Corridor conservation initiative is gearing up for a possible huge cash injection.

The organisers of the initiative applied in July to the critical ecosystem partnership fund in Washington for R1,25-million.

And project manager Pam Booth received a message from the organisation yesterday saying that they would be hearing "shortly" on whether their application has been approved or not.

Booth said that if the response was positive they would be looking to gear up the project from January. "It has been ongoing ever since our first meeting in October last year and it will happen even if we don't get this money. But it will really help us to speed things up if we do."

The envisaged corridor will stretch from the Eden district municipality based in George, on the bottom edge of the Garden Route, right across to the Greater Addo Elephant National Park, which lies in an arc north of Port Elizabeth.

It will seek to link private and State properties and will include community conservancies, nature and forest reserves and national parks, private reserves and private properties managed in agreement with the conservation authorities.

Key points between the two end points will of course be the mountains, lake system and forests of the Garden route, and Baviaanskloof.

The idea is to start with the protection of all the rivers in the area, from source to mouth, from waterways like the Karatara that flow into the Garden Route lakes, right through to the Sundays River.

It is envisaged that a range of incentives will be offered to landowners to support the initiative. Plettenberg Bay's Bitou municipality is leading the way with an offer to landowners of a 100% rebate in July next year if they can prove that they are trying to eradicate their alien vegetation.

The initiative will in turn help member landowners to market their tourism products, to interpret the maze of conservation laws affecting them and to explore the exciting new opportunities presented by international carbon and biodiversity credit trading. Both industries are still in their infancy but the scheme is that landowners can earn credits by retaining and restoring indigenous bush.

These credits can in turn be bought, in terms of the Kyoto Protocol, by the major polluters and destroyers of biodiversity, in an effort to balance their books.

The initiative will help member landowners to access government hospitality training programmes and to establish links with the parastatal Working for Water and Working for Wetlands projects, to eradicate exotics and restore their wetlands.

Eastern Province Herald

Articleby: By Guy Rogers - www.sundaytimes.co.za