Champion Trees of South Africa

Champion Trees of South Africa - Southern Africa : The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) initiated the South African Champion Trees Project in 1998. The Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry can declare certain tree species and individual trees or groups of trees, as protected under the

The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) initiated the South African Champion Trees Project in 1998.

The Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry can declare certain tree species and individual trees or groups of trees, as protected under the National Forests Act 1998 (Act No. 84 OF 1998). Such protected trees may not be “…cut, disturbed or damaged and their products may not be possessed, sold or transported without a licence…” In the case of individual trees the protection is absolute, with no potential for permission for removal except if life or property is threatened (eg by dying or leaning trees).

The definition of a Champion Tree includes the following elements:

• It must be a tree.
The act defines trees as ‘…any self-supporting woody plant of >10 mm stem diameter at breast height, that is >3m high if single-stemmed, and >5 m high if multistemmed...’ Plants such as Aloe, cycads, palms, banana-like plants and so forth are excluded by the act;

• It can be an individual tree or group of trees;

• Living and dying trees should be regarded as candidates for Champion status.
But, with the aim of protecting and extend their life-span;

• Both indigenous and non-indigenous trees are eligible.
Certain non-indigenous trees have strong cultural and historical links to South African heritage. Most non-indigenous candidates are urban. In cases where a non-indigenous Champion tree is a declared weed, then a management plan to curb its spread must be in place;

• Species in protected areas, including botanical gardens and arboreta, are also eligible;

and

• The national versus regional importance is a key consideration for champion status.
Species listed as protected in other Acts and pieces of legislation (e.g. provincial ordinances or municipal by-laws) can be considered.

Other factors that underpin the conceptual approach are the following:

• Stakeholder interests (provincial and local authorities; cultural historians; NGOs that focus on trees; wildlife/environment sector; and civil society;) should be taken into account in determining the list of Champion trees;

and

• The DWAF’s legal mandate and existing capacity should be considered.

References:
Golding, J.S. & Geldenhuys, C.J. (2003) Methods and procedures for the selection of Champion trees in South Africa for protection in terms of the National Forests Act (1998). Report for the Department of Water affairs and Forestry. Report FW-02/03, Forestwood cc, Pretoria.

25 Mar 2015
Tony Rebelo