A psyched group of about 40 climbers attended the 2014 Rocklands Conservation Day on an icy but sunny Saturday 7 June 2014.
Cape Nature staff led by Patrick Lane (Cederberg Manager) provided 30 of the endangered cedar trees which were planted in an around the Roadside boulders.
The Clanwilliam Cedar tree (Widdringtonia cedarbergensis) is listed as Critically Endangered* by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) – growing only in areas at 800 to 1 400 m above sea level. It has been exploited in the past and has seen a considerable reduction in population size due to an increase in both the amount and intensity of fires in the recent past. It is one of few fynbos species that is not adapted to fire, where many other species are specially adapted to reproduce after fires.
The climbers also did a sterling job of fixing up the paths and boulder bases in and around the Roadside boulders. This area has seen a lot of traffic from boulderers in the past and it was nice to see that the erosion damage was being halted. Everyone finished up feeling good about the value they had added to this pristine and sensitive environment.
Based on the success of this day, The Mountain Club of SA and Cape Nature hope to make this an annual event. Special thanks to Patrick Lane from Cape Nature for making the effort and time to help the Mountain Club of SA with this initiative.
European settlers began stock farming in the Cederberg in the 18th century. In 1876 a forester was appointed to oversee crown land in the mountains. This was possibly the first attempt at conservation in the Cederberg. From 1903 to 1973 exploitation of the Cederberg’s natural resources was rampant. Large amounts of cedar wood, rooibos tea, buchu and Rockwood bark was harvested, while farmers used the mountains to graze livestock in times of drought. Large numbers of cedar trees were felled as the wood was in great demand for construction – about 7 200 trees were used as telephone poles between Piketberg and Calvinia.
Fires added to the destruction and the cedar tree is now on the brink of extinction. In 1967 the removal of dead cedar trees was halted. Other forms of exploitation ended in 1973 with the proclamation of the Cederberg Wilderness Area. During the last few years, attempts to plant saplings in their natural habitat have created awareness of the endangered status of the cedar tree among concerned nature lovers and visitors to the Cederberg.