CapeNature’s Land Use Advice and Conservation Planning unit hosted an information sharing session for Biodiversity Specialists of the Western Cape. There was a strong focus on the technical aspects of the 2017 Western Cape Biodiversity Spatial Plan (WCBSP) with an emphasis on the Critical Biodiversity Area verification protocol.

The WCBSP is a provincial systematic biodiversity planning product that serves as a roadmap to a sustainable and inclusive living environment; ensuring smart and sustainable growth in the Province. The biodiversity and ecological infrastructure of the Western Cape is a valuable, but vulnerable, asset that could be a rich source of natural solutions to the challenges posed by poverty, unemployment, and climate change.

For this potential to be realised, land use planners and managers in a wide range of sectors need good scientific information that is effectively interpreted and made available to end-users; well-capacitated institutions that are responsible for effective management and governance of biodiversity assets; and well-informed policies, legislation and leaders. The Western Cape Biodiversity Spatial Plan is an important tool for addressing these needs.

The session was well received by specialists and provided for with extensive well facilitated discussion between the 6 CapeNature scientists that were part of the workshop and the biodiversity specialists. A key outcome of the workshop was an improved common understanding of planning methodology and key informants used. There were also questions and discussions around how to improve the legal standing of the WCBSP with strong support from the specialists for the WCBSP to have more “legal teeth”.

CapeNature’s conservation planner indicated that the BSP is due to be codified in the Biodiversity Bill, which will elevate the formal status of the BSP. Two other topics were covered in the workshop: Terms of Reference provided by Environmental Assessment Practitioners for Biodiversity Specialists and the opportunities and constraints linked to stewardship and the provincial Protected Areas Expansion Strategy.

Both discussions proved very productive and the need for clear, consistent, comprehensive and fair Terms of Reference was highlighted. CapeNature has subsequently reiterated this need to DEA&DP with the aim being to achieve a more equitable standard.

The specialist workshop, which was held early in December 2018 at the Kirstenbosch Research Centre, has already yielded positive results.  Specialist reports done since the intervention are now referencing the BSP, and particularly the reasons behind the BSP status of a site, in an improved manner.

The reports also show a better understanding of the verification process and the fact that CBA status cannot be decided on an unofficial basis nor can it be determined on a site by site basis unless reported to CapeNature for Verification by a qualified scientist. This has in the past been a point of contention with some specialists.

For more information please contact Philippa Huntly via email at: phuntly@capenature.co.za

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