Government earmarks cash to buy, preserve open spaces
New foundation aims to keep land available for public purposes.
Regulations clearing the way for a foundation for the protection of open spaces were signed this week by Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Atias. It was the first time the government has earmarked some income - from the marketing of land for construction - to preserving open land.
The finance minister and the environmental protection minister are expected to sign the regulations over the next few days. That will allow the new body to begin work.
The main function of the foundation will be to purchase land rights in order to assure the use of open land for public purposes. After purchase, such land will be declared a national park, nature reserve or other type of park.
Foundation money will also go to maintain and rehabilitate purchased spaces.
Along with the sale of state lands, the establishment of the foundation is part of the transformation of the Israel Lands Administration into a lands authority. The transformation has been delayed for a long time because the Administration's employees would not agree to employment terms within the new authority, and also because of disagreements between Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan and Atias.
The foundation will receive one percent of the income from the lands authority, mainly from the sale of lands for construction. Based on this year's figures, the authority's income is about NIS 7 billion, and so the foundation will receive some NIS 70 million.
The money will be used in places like the kurkar hills in Nes Tziona, where privately owned land has already been planned or approved as parks or national parks. However, there are currently no funds to purchase the lands from their owners.
According to Erdan's plans, one of the foundation's functions will be to prevent further damage to ecologically important areas where, for example, the mining of sand was once allowed.
One of the initiators of the foundation, Yoav Sagi of the Society for the Protection of Nature's Desheh Institute said, "We welcome the establishment of the foundation that is meant to ensure that the lands authority protects valuable open spaces in Israel by means of the money it will receive through the new lands law."