Felling put on hold by court

Tree felling at the Tokai Forest has been stopped until the next court hearing on Monday 10 October.

Parkscape – a community forum formed to liaise with SANParks – went to court on Friday 9 September stating that they are concerned that SANParks is acting in bad faith with regards to the management framework given the sudden rush to fell the area. They say their concerns are less about the preservation of pines – which are a crop – but more about an adherence to the Tokai Cecilia Management Framework which was negotiated in 2006 together with SANParks, the City, and affected stakeholder groups, and subsequently agreed to and they are happy that the trees are not being cut at the moment (“Trees must not fall, People’s Post, 6 September).

Nicky Schmidt, Parkscape chairperson says: “We were granted a cessation of felling until the next court hearing. This is what we had sought as an interim measure. The first part of the application has succeeded – a cessation of felling – the next part of the application – regarding the adherence to/deviation from the Management Framework – will be heard on 10 October,” she says.

On the other hand Friends of Tokai Park fully support the harvesting of all pines at the Tokai Forest and they are in favour of the restoration of critically endangered Cape Flats sand fynbos to the harvested areas.

Mountain To Ocean (MOT) Forestry started the harvesting of the pines on Tuesday 30 August and it left many people standing clear on the supporting or opposing side.

The cut pines will be replaced by fynbos which have 11% of its former extent remaining.

Margaret Kahle, a Friends of Tokai Park committee member, says Lower Tokai, being both the restored area and that is still under pines, is the largest remaining fragment of the Cape Flats sand fynbos vegetation type south of Parklands.

“Of important significance is that the greater Tokai Park is not only Cape Flats sand fynbos, but also Peninsula granite fynbos (an endangered vegetation type). This is the last area where the sand fynbos lowlands are connected to the mountain, and therefore a much larger ecosystem is supported. The entire area, not just bits, needs to be conserved so that the minimum viable populations of threatened species, both plants and animals, can survive,” she explains.

“Restoring and conserving Tokai Park in perpetuity is clearly a national and international priority in line with international conservation legislation such as the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation.”

In support of the harvesting of the pines, Friends of Tokai Park started a petition to show the importance of having the fynbos.

Zoe Poulson, a Cape Town botanist currently studying PhD in Botany registered in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Cape Town, says the fact is pine plantations are actually very unfriendly to the environment.

“Pines use so much water. They take up as much as 40 to 50 litres per tree per day, causing a dangerous fire hazard (as was clearly shown during the Cape fires) and a loss of biodiversity.

“They are bad news for ecological integrity and have no place in any conservation area. They may provide shade, but at what cost?” Poulson asks.

“And if this weren’t enough for the pine trees at Lower Tokai to be given their marching orders, under the pine trees there is an intact seed bank remaining from when there was formerly Cape Flats sand fynbos. This seed bank can be used to restore this critically endangered vegetation type at Lower Tokai. However, the longer the pine trees remain, the more the remaining seed bank will become depleted.”

Anthony Hitchcock, a collection manager for nursery and threatened species, says the best way to preserve the species is in their natural habitat. 

“The forest is big enough an area to do a proper ecological pollination there. When the pines come out there will be a lot of leaves, therefore more nutrients in the soil. The soil for fynbos is naturally poor. When the old vegetation gets removed and there is burning – which is a every important cycle of vegetation – it cleans out the soil of diseases, new seeds grow and the fynbos will strive nicely. We will have the beautiful park again.”

Friends of Tokai Park say they oppose Parkscape’s campaign to stop the pine plantation being harvested.

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