Biodiversity conservation on private land : an international perspective and lessons for South Africa.
Van Niekerk, Catherine Britt.
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Conservation agreements have been used successfully around the globe for the conservation of biodiversity on private land. In South Africa however, their use to this end has largely been overlooked. Conservation mechanisms in the country have focussed primarily on traditional methods; establishing and managing protected areas identified as having some form of conservation significance. At present only 5.8% of land in South Africa is conserved in statutory protected areas, however government has committed itself to increasing this percentage to 8%. Furthermore, many of the country's biodiversity-rich areas are situated on private land and are currently afforded little or no protection. The cost of purchasing the land is not only financially prohibitive but also socially unacceptable and consequently alternative conservations mechanisms need to be explored. This study provides a comparative analysis of the legislation governing conservation agreements in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and highlights several common key provisions which have contributed to the success of these agreements. It also provides recommendations on possible changes to the South African legislation to allow for a more effective contribution by private landowners to biodiversity objectives and targets within the country. Although the study establishes that conservation agreements can be accommodated within South Africa's legal system it acknowledges that the success of these agreements is largely dependent on complex interactions between effective policy, supporting institutional arrangements, and attractive incentives. It cautions that if these agreements are to work in South Africa, then careful consideration needs to be given not only to tailor-making the legislation to the South African environment but also to establishing incentives which facilitate "buy-in" from landowners.