Forestry and conservation are two inseparable concepts at PG Bison. In many cases, the existence of our plantations is the saving grace for a range of fauna. Sites where indigenous forests still thrive on the Eastern Cape’s highlands are also protected through PG Bison initiatives.
The reason is simple. At PG Bison, conservation is not seen as a special department, competing for resources and attention. SA’s leading diversified timber company makes conservation a part of the day-to-day operations of staff on the ground.
Conservation is the concern of every employee. Our foresters understand the well-being of natural resources directly impacts on the health of the company and the jobs that it sustains.
Over-grazing leads to soil erosion. But under-grazing can be just as destructive. Without keeping the grasslands in check, weeds and the grass itself can become so thick that it creates other hazards. As biomass increases, wildfires can burn hotter than they should, changing the soil composition. This causes weeds to sprout, making it impossible for indigenous growth to return. It also prevents the indigenous cranes from breeding in their natural habitat.
Our management team takes their cue from endemic wildlife, like wildebeest, as well as the three crane species breeding in the area, namely the blue crane, wattled crane and crown crane.
We do not erect fences without consulting migration patterns. Under the watchful eye of our foresters, we are then able to let the wildlife and cattle from the local communities reduce the biomass and control the grasslands for us through grazing.
Healthy wetlands are also vital to the health of the plantations. Sometimes, streams within the wetlands can erode their beds until they are too deep. This means the overflow from these streams no longer reaches the wetlands surrounding them. Here too, PG Bison’s team engage with Working with Water to ensure the water continues to flow and keeps the wetlands functional.
Healthy wetlands mean healthy cranes (and forests)
Cranes need two things to breed, the wet season and wetlands.
PG Bison has done its homework on the region’s cranes. We know where they spend their days and where they breed. Our response has been to create special dry and wet management zones in our plantations.
The zones where the birds live and breed are demarcated. We limit our operations within these zones during crucial times in the cranes’ life cycle. Intense operations, such as harvesting, are suspended during the wet breeding season and only resumed in the dry season for those specific areas.
To ensure our operations and the life cycle of the birds are in harmony, in summer we choose suitable compartments to harvest away from the wetlands while the cranes use the wetlands for breeding.
This is a win-win agreement between our forests and their ecological context.
Conservation management on-the-run
Careful monitoring of cattle and wildlife numbers and locations is necessary to keep our grass- and wetlands healthy. In the past we made specific people responsible for the monitoring of our natural environment.
We have, however, decided to make conservation part of our daily operations, turning the people who spend most time between the trees and on the grasslands into conservation officers.
Our foresters and security guards are trained to report back on the numbers and localities of indigenous wildlife like wildebeest and other antelope species. This is supported with airborne support when we fly in every second year to do a headcount of every single animal in our Ugie / Maclear forests.
In this way we keep track of where wildlife is impacting on the health of our grass- and wetlands. The same goes for cattle that graze between our human-made forests. The forestry staff alternate their presence in grazing camps in the grasslands and wetlands. It is built into their daily practices.
As a harvesting forester your target is not just to produce a certain volume of timber, but how you produce it.
Environmental principles and best practices are embedded into our daily activities while regular internal audits keep us responsible. We hold ourselves responsible to ensure that we do not negatively impact on the natural resources in which we operate. It is a key philosophy within the business to manage our operations and the environment in a sustainable way today, so that we have a business tomorrow.