Using tax breaks to save biodiversity
Biodiversity Stewardship is a novel and key means to formally protect biodiversity found on privately-owned land and is part of the national response to secure the future of the variety of life found in South Africa. The success of Biodiversity Stewardship rests on the commitment of private landowners to conserve biodiversity on their properties. The Fiscal Benefits Project has been launched as a feasibility study to determine how tax incentives may be accessed on behalf of landowners in order to benefit the success of Biodiversity Stewardship nationally.
The aim of the Fiscal Benefits Project is to test the use and applicability of environmental tax incentives within the Biodiversity Stewardship context in order to encourage landowners to engage and commit to conserving our biodiversity. The more landowners who willingly commit to formal Stewardship agreements, the larger the area of land and greater biodiversity protected. It is hoped that fiscal benefits, like ‘green’ tax incentives, may help alleviate the financial constraints faced by landowners.
The Fiscal Benefits Project also seeks to create a concise knowledge base for stewardship stakeholders and officers nationwide about the impacts of using tax benefits to increase the appeal of Biodiversity Stewardship to landowners. The goal of the Fiscal Benefits Project is to provide an innovative means of securing financial sustainability for the Biodiversity Stewardship process.
According to Candice Stevens, BirdLife South Africa’s Biodiversity Stewardship Fiscal Benefits Project Manager “The Fiscal Benefits Project is run through BirdLife South Africa’s Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) Programme, which aims to protect South Africa’s key sites and habitats for birds and other biodiversity in order to ensure the continued survival of our natural heritage. The IBA Programme uses the Biodiversity Stewardship initiative to achieve this aim and, therefore, has a vested interest in the success of stewardship sites.”
The pilot sites identified for the Fiscal Benefits Project fall within two strategic IBAs that are home to Critically Endangered species such as the Blue Swallow and three crane species. These feasibility study sites are found within production landscapes and were also selected due to their importance as both Strategic Water Source Areas with attendant food security value as red meat, dairy and forestry are all produced in these areas. These sites fall within the top 8% of South Africa’s land surface area that produces over 50% of our water and are also home to numerous grassland species which we simply cannot afford to lose.
The Fiscal Benefits Project was successfully launched at pilot sites in the KwaZulu-Natal Mistbelt Grasslands IBA around the towns of Donnybrook and iXopo and in the Grasslands IBA near Wakkerstroom in southern Mpumalanga. Positive findings are already being reported from BirdLife South Africa’s work at these sites and it is hoped that the Fiscal Benefits Project will be able to impact stewardship efforts directly.
Said Augustine Morkel, WWF-South Africa’s Executive Manager of Operations and the WWF Nedbank Green Trust, “The WWF Nedbank Green Trust recognised the potentially massive impacts of the Fiscal Benefits Project and this is why we are excited to be partnering with BirdLife South Africa on this initiative. By engaging landowners in these areas and encouraging them to participate in the Fiscal Benefits Project, we stand a chance of securing our water sources, our food production areas and ensuring the continued existence of a plethora of remarkable animal and plant species crucial to South Africa’s biodiversity.”
For further information, please contact: Candice Stevens, +27 (0)11 789 1122 or email: email@example.com.