South Africa – In a country where water scarcity is a regular challenge, preserving our natural water resources has become a critical issue. Invasive alien plants are responsible for the loss of over 9% of precious run-off water, and one of the biggest threats to water catchments are invasive pine trees. The Boosmans Wilderness Area World Heritage Site, located in South Africa, is home to one of these critical water catchments, which flows into the Duivenhoks Dam, supplying water to the towns of Heidelberg, SlangRivier, and Witsands, and the surrounding farming community. The water is critical to some 15,000 residents, and the ecosystem services of this Wilderness Reserve must be kept intact to secure water security for future generations. It should be noted that the greater Langeberg Mountain Range is classified as a Strategic Water Source Area, which is critical to sustain livelihoods as far afield as Swellendam, Riversdale, Albertinia, Barrydale and Still Bay.
To combat this threat to our water resources, a group of volunteers and partners came together on Earth Day to embark on a HeliHack, an innovative approach to removing invasive pine trees from the tops of mountains. This ground-breaking project was funded in part by many small donations coming from surrounding landowners, civil society, and CapeNature. The HeliHack took place over three days from the 21st to the 23rd of April 2023.
CapeNature’s ground teams (including Marloth and Working on Fire) focused on the lower slopes, while the experienced volunteers suspended by ropes under a helicopter targeted the isolated top pines in the catchment. The courageous volunteer mountain climbers were trooped into the highest reaches of the Langeberg Mountains to remove remote invaders. It is hoped that this is the start of a multi-year project to keep this catchment clear.
This program is a collaboration between CapeNature, the HeliHack Initiative, landowners, Grootvadersbos Conservancy, Husquvarna, and Volunteers.
Michael Raimondo, a volunteer of the HeliHack Initiative, said, “This project demonstrated what can be achieved when passionate people come together to preserve a unique catchment that provides water for so many.”
Adrian Fortuin, Conservation Manager of Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve, said, “This is a critical water catchment, and its preservation is critical to securing water resources for people and nature.”
Aleck McKirdy, founder of HeliHack Initiative, added, “At the moment, the Helihack crews donate their time and often use their own equipment, but we really need to scale up this model. To do that, we need more funding and support.”
The Helihack project, in particular, benefits the people of Heidelberg, Slangrivier, and Witsand. It is hoped that the success of this project will inspire others to come together to preserve our natural resources for future generations.
This Press Release was forwarded by Michael Raimondo.