Row over felling of Tokai yellowwoods
Yellowwoods chopped down with Tokai pines
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’