Conservation Easements in the Overberg

You are here: Home / Conservation Easements in the Overberg

Conservation easements: Working towards sustainable and living landscapes

We work with farmers and landowners with Renosterveld on their property. It’s voluntary to sign a conservation easement, and through easements, we work together to protect these landscapes.

Here’s how it works:

  • Either farmers approach us to sign an easement, or based on a set of criteria, including things such as: fragment size and/or connectivity, fragment quality (in terms of management effects), biodiversity value (based primarily on plants, birds and other taxa where possible), we will start a conversation with landowners. We want to protect vital remaining Renosterveld fragments together.
  • If the landowner or farmer is willing to learn more, we present them with a full report on the biodiversity value of their farms. Discussions follow regarding management requirements and ways in which the ORCT can assist.
  • If a landowner commits to signing an easement, our Ecological Coordinator draws up a draft Management Plan, which is completed with the landowner’s inputs and approval.
  • Once the landowner is happy with the Management Plan and signs off on it,  the legal paperwork is drawn up by our Ecological Coordinator and legal advisors.
  • Then the easement is signed by the ORCT and the farmer, and registered at the Deed’s office.
  • At this point, we work with the landowner/farmer to implement priority management interventions as highlighted in the management plan. These may include:

– Fencing patches to manage livestock access
– Clearing invasive alien plants
– Planning and supporting ecological burns
– Erosion control
– Undertaking ecological surveys to see what species (plants and animals) are found in the Renosterveld
– Monitoring growth post-burn
– And much more.

Got a question? Here are some frequently asked questions from our farmers.

A: Yes. But we recommend following the grazing guidelines in the Management Plan as much as possible in order to avoid overgrazing and long-term negative impacts.

A: We recommend at least two growing seasons, with only summer grazing thereafter.

A: Yes, you may; as long as they are not in watercourses and as long as they have been designated on the maps associated with your invasive alien plant management plan. For example, a grove of Bluegums can be retained for shade or bee-keeping, but this should be clearly shown on the map in your Management Plan.

A: Not necessarily. Feeding livestock within natural veld areas introduces several weeds and alien grasses – we therefore discourage it. However, we also recommend sticking to one or two intensively used areas, rather than moving feeding areas around the farm. Ideally they are managed as part of your overall veld and farm management.

A: No, but where possible, we assist with fencing larger areas, in order to optimise livestock management in the veld.

A: No, definitely not. It is illegal to plough Renosterveld irrespective of whether or not you sign a conservation easement. The partnership that you create with the ORCT in signing such an agreement provides the platform from which you can access funding and assistance to improve your veld management, adding value to your farm.

A: Yes. We will make sure that your Management Plan takes all relevant environmental legislation into account, making you 100% compliant with the laws, as long as you stick to the plan.

A: No. Signing the Conservation Easement and the associated Management Plan has the advantage of bringing you in line with all environmental legislation (particularly regarding the laws which state that you may not sell a property containing invasive alien plants). It also forces the next landowner to acknowledge where the virgin land is, hopefully adding another layer of protection to the vegetation which you have worked so hard to conserve. The idea is that you yourself would want to prevent future owners from destroying or degrading the Renosterveld on your farm – it’s the only way to leave this legacy.

Contact us

Contact Odette at info@overbergrenosterveld.org.za or call + 27 (0) 83 551 3341

What is a Conservation Easement?

Essentially it’s a conservation servitude registered over a property in favour of a particular NGO (in this case, the ORCT).

The concept in fact originates from America. In the United States, it’s also called a conservation basement, conservation covenant, conservation restriction or conservation servitude.

The easement allows a qualified private land conservation organisation (like the ORCT) to work with the landowner to manage the natural patches – in the best interest of nature. It’s a cooperation that is planned and agreed to by both the landowner and the ORCT.

The easement ‘runs with the land’, meaning the agreement is applicable for both the present and future landowners. It’s written into the title deeds of the farm, and requires only the landowner’s consent (or the Trustees or Directors in the case of a Trust or Company), and the approval of the bondholder (should there be a mortgage over the property).

The Overberg is truly a leader in terms of rolling out this model with private landowners, and the ORCT is pioneering it here. Already we have signed a number of conservation easements with farmersin the region.

Farmers like:

  • MG Lötter of the farm Klipfontein has 360 hectares of Critically Endangered Western Rûens Shale Renosterveld now under an easement.
  • And Joshua Human of the farm Kykoedie has signed an easement, which includes Critically Endangered Central Rûens Shale Renosterveld on 200 hectares of his farm.

KLIPFONTEIN RENOSTERVELD RESERVE

The first conservation easement has been signed in South Africa that is focused specifically on protecting Renosterveld.

WWF-South Africa has signed with a Caledon landowner, MG Lotter. The Overberg Renosterveld Conservation Trust (ORCT) will manage the easement and provide the management support to Lotter and landowners who sign up in future. Through this innovative form of conservation on private land, part of the largest area of Western Rûens Shale Renosterveld left in the world (370 hectares) will be protected in perpetuity.