Since the use of four-wheel drive vehicles on beaches has been banned, drivers are now increasingly taking their 4X4s into the mountains, creating erosion and damaging rare plant species.

Since the use of four-wheel drive vehicles on beaches has been banned, drivers are now increasingly taking their 4X4s into the mountains, creating erosion and damaging rare plant species.

Farmers creating off-road tracks on their farms to attract the mushrooming 4X4 market, with no regard for the environment, were apparently aggravating the problem in the Western Cape.

In a letter to the latest edition of the Botanical Society of South Africa' journal, botanist and environmental consultant Barrie Low wrote: "Illegal off road vehicle activity on the Paardeberg is growing exponentially and we have evidence of illegal roads on the top of the Matroosberg and various other pristine areas in the Kouebokkeveld and Cederberg ..."

This week Low told the that he had written the letter after witnessing numerous examples of rare habitats being destroyed through uncontrolled vehicle use.

"It really came to a head because of what's happening on the Paardeberg (between Paarl and Malmesbury) which is a unique floristic area with several endangered species. Some of the landowners are doing their best to conserve their land, but there is a 4X4 track that one farmer uses commercially," Low said.

Cape Nature Conservation's director of biodiversity Kas Hamman said: "The measures banning 4X4s on the beaches have had a knock-on effect because now people are using their expensive toys in the mountains, and it has also opened up tourism operations.

"We are picking up major problems especially on private land where farmers have built tracks without taking into account the erosion effects, the presence of wetlands and the impact on biodiversity," Hamman added.

David Daitz Cape Nature Conservation's chief executive said by being strategic and ensuring a controlled environment, management tracks in the Cedarberg could be used for recreation.

"We have had very positive interaction with 4X4 clubs in areas where they have been helping us rehabilitate the area by, for example, removing old fences," Daitz said.

Original article from Car