ACCESS TO PEAKS NATIONAL PARKS PROHIBITED UNTIL DECEMBER 2023
In March, it was announced that there was increasing concern over the impact of multiple plant pathogens that are affecting endemic tree species within the Peaks National Park. At that time, we encouraged people not to access the Peaks unless strictly necessary. This was because the movement of soil, mud and water is known to spread plant pathogens and we know that endemic trees along the Peak’s path network are the most affected, and therefore dying, due to plant pathogens.
Since then, an amendment to the Environmental Protection Ordinance 2016 has been made. This allows authorities to manage access to specific areas of St Helena’s terrestrial and marine environments which are affected by or could potentially be affected by pathogens, diseases or organisms that could cause irreparable damage to St Helena’s biodiversity. This can include prohibiting access where necessary. This amendment was proposed and approved at the last formal sitting of Legislative Council on Thursday 06 April 2023, with the changes brought into effect on Tuesday 11 April 2023.
To help prevent the further spread of plant pathogens within the Peaks National Park, especially along footpaths, these powers have been used to legally prohibit access to some areas of the Peaks National Park. Where applicable, these prohibitions were brought into effect from 11 April 2023.
This is not a decision that has been taken lightly, and careful consideration has been given to the potential risks of not taking action now to try and protect our precious and threatened endemics, when considered against the option of keeping the Peaks National Park open to the public.
Environmental Protection Notices will be erected at those areas where access is prohibited, with clear information and instructions about what the closures mean. Physical barriers, either closed locked gates or chains, will also be in place. The Environmental Protection Notices are legally enforceable and must be complied with. Failure to comply with these is an offence and may lead to prosecution.
Initially, access to specific areas of the Peaks National Park will be prohibited until the end of December 2023. During this period, we will continue to undertake further disease research and monitoring so that we can better understand the distribution and impact of the various plant pathogens.
Access restrictions will only be in place as long as necessary and decisions to restrict access have not been taken lightly. However, the threat posed by plant pathogens is very serious and if the diseases continue to spread and impact vulnerable tree species, it may be necessary to extend access restrictions.
The prohibition of access has only been put in place to help safeguard the Island’s precious habitats and endemics, and we ask that everyone plays their part in trying to achieve this aim.
If you would like any additional information in the meantime, please contact ENRP Portfolio Director, Darren Duncan, at email@example.com or Chief Environmental Officer, Isabel Peters at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone on 24724 for both officers.
Research indicates that pathogen diseases are present across the Peaks National Park, most notably around the paths. The most notable at this stage is a water mould, Phytophthora, which lives in soil and attacks trees by rotting them from the root up. This means that it can be spread in many ways, but the fact that most disease is being observed in trees immediately next to paths suggests that the main method of spread is via the movement of soil and mud.
The cloud forest is a vital habitat for nature and people. It provides a large amount of the Island’s water capture and supply, and has high concentrations of the Island’s endemic plants and invertebrates. The endemics here are not only very rare but are also very isolated. This makes it a sensitive conservation site, placing the unique and rare biodiversity within it at risk.
Where similar pathogens have been found elsewhere around the world, they have been known to spread widely and have significant negative impacts on the forests affected. It is therefore necessary to take precautionary action to try to slow the spread.
#Pathogens #Endemics #Biodiversity #Biosecurity
SHG 18 April 2023