Knysna — Government has transferred at least 97 000 hectares of state land to SA National Parks (SANParks), reshaping the future of eco-tourism and economic growth in the Western Cape.
The land in the southern Cape includes indigenous forest, mountains catchments areas.
The move involves 38 000ha of indigenous forests in the Farleigh, Diepwalle and Tsitsikamma estates as well as about 37 000ha of mountain catchment area, which is mostly fynbos in the Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma mountains.
Also about 26 000ha of land currently under pine plantations will be felled, rehabilitated and transferred to SANParks over the next 15 years.
Speaking at the ceremonial handover in Kraanshook on Friday, Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said the transfer was part of government's bigger process of putting the administration of indigenous forest in the best possible hands.
"The transfer also involves nature conservation agencies to whom forest management is being transferred under the national forest act of 1998.
"What we are doing today may well reshape the future of eco-tourism and lay the foundation of future investment of garden road mega reserve and encompassing Tsitsikamma with the national park of Knysna," he said.
Mr Van Schalkwyk said the national reserve might well become the model of SA natural conservation, as it would integrate unspoiled natural areas with existing towns and communities in a sustainable conservation landscape.
The department was also transferring the budget for the management of these forests to SANParks with 124 staff including highly qualified foresters and specialists in harvesting indigenous forests.
The forest are among the important and evocative natural resources which are believed traces the human communities at the mouth of the Klasies River dating back to more than 100 000 years, from the time of the Khoi San to the first European settlers in the early 1800.