Row over felling of Tokai yel­low­woods

Yel­low­woods chopped down with Tokai pines

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - MELANIE PETERS

THE DE­BATE over the felling of trees in Tokai For­est has flared up again af­ter res­i­dents no­ticed that yel­low­wood trees are be­ing chopped down along with alien veg­e­ta­tion.

It has sparked letters to the press, blogs on the sub­ject and even a web­site lob­by­ing against the “fyn­bos fa­nat­ics” sup­ported by peo­ple who want to save the for­est.

An­gry res­i­dents are ask­ing why the “in­dige­nous” yel­low­woods were felled.

How­ever, re­ply­ing to ques­tions by the Demo­cratic Al­liance, the Min­istry of Wa­ter and En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs said the yel­low­woods ( Podocar­pus fal­ca­tus) that had been cleared were not in­dige­nous to the Cape Penin­sula but to the South­ern Cape.

In fact, they were in­va­sive in this area and posed a threat to the lo­cal fyn­bos and in­dige­nous forests by “out-com­pet­ing in­dige­nous species”.

The depart­ment is­sued a per­mit for the re­moval of the trees ear­lier this year, and 132 trees were felled. But not ev­ery­one is con­vinced. Web­site www.cool­forests.org.za says: “Wake up Cape Town and fight for an ur­ban for­est park and put an end to fa­nat­i­cal bio-bigot van­dal­ism.”

One blog­ger pointed out that yel­low­woods had been largely pro­tected since the days of Jan van Riebeeck un­der the very first South African con­ser­va­tion mea­sure.

He writes: “I have lived in Cape Town most of my life and I use Tokai for­est… al­most on a daily ba­sis and have done for most of my life.”

How­ever, in a strongly worded let­ter which ap­peared in a daily paper, Dr Tony Re­belo, of the Bio­di­ver­sity In­sti­tute’s Threat­ened Species Pro­gramme, wrote that the trees were grow­ing on the ex­tremely rare penin- sula gran­ite fyn­bos, which was clas­si­fied as en­dan­gered, and Cape Flats sand fyn­bos which was crit­i­cally en­dan­gered.

“These types con­tain species and com­mu­ni­ties that do not oc­cur in the wide­spread sand­stone fyn­bos. Only 30 per­cent of the penin­sula gran­ite fyn­bos re­mains, much of which is still un­der pine plan­ta­tions, but which still has in­tact fyn­bos seed banks.

“Can peo­ple not com­pre­hend the scale of bio­di­ver­sity loss that is oc­cur­ring right un­der our noses in Cape Town? This is not hap­pen­ing in some far away trop­i­cal for­est. This is not hap­pen­ing on some re­mote melt­ing ice cap. This is right here in Cape Town, where we work, and sleep and eat and play.” James Forsyth, of Friends of Tokai For­est, said the yel­low­woods were part of a 20-year-old “failed ex­per­i­ment” and he did not mind them be­ing cut down. The com­pany Moun­tain to Ocean, which has a 20-year lease for clear felling in Tokai, was given the go-head to chop them down.

Ta­ble Moun­tain Na­tional Park se­nior ranger for Tokai and Cecilia forests, Chris Botes, said: “We are aware of the pro­tec­tion of yel­low­woods and I can as­sure you that we went through the cor­rect le­gal pro­ce­dures to ob­tain a li­cence from the govern­ment to har­vest them.”

Apart from the fact that they were “not en­demic to the area”, there were a num­ber of other rea­sons for har­vest­ing them. These in­cluded the fact that they would not sur­vive the win­ter storms af­ter their sup­port, the sur­round­ing pine trees, had been har­vested.

‘Wake up Cape Town and fight for an ur­ban for­est park and put an end to fa­nat­i­cal bio­bigot van­dal­ism’

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