JNF Under Fire for Rushing to Replant Torched Forest Between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv

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A forest restoration project in Israel.
A forest restoration project in Israel.Credit: Society for the Protection of Nature

The Jewish National Fund has begun rehabilitating a forest located between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv against experts’ recommendations, the Society for Protection of Nature in Israel said on Monday.

The forest, located near Neveh Shalom, was damaged by a wave of fires two months ago.

The SPNI has demanded that the JNF stop the work and obtain proper permits before planting new trees.

The JNF has been preparing the area for replanting for the past two weeks. After spotting the work during a tour of the area, SPNI officials wrote JNF director for the coastal plain region, Gilad Mastai, to remind him that experts committees convened following fires for the past 30 years have recommended that forest be given a chance to recover naturally from the trauma, to prevent soil erosion and damage to topsoil and permit the vegetation to regenerate with the first rain. The JNF had also once adopted this forestry doctrine.

The SPNI also said that planting a forest requires a permit from the relevant planning and construction committee that oversees the National Forestry Master Plan, but that no such document has been issued.

A fire burning near Neveh Shalom early in the morning of November 22, 2016.Credit: Jerusalem Fire and Rescue Dept.

“On the surface it appears that the actions being taken on the site are against the law, are causing ecological damage and constitute disregard for regulatory guidelines and the recommendations of experts,” the SPNI wrote.

The JNF rejected the allegations and said that “the work near Neveh Shalom is being fully tailored to the needs of the area, which constitutes less than half a percent of the JNF forests that were damaged last November. The work was launched after top experts and JNF foresters conducted surveys and examinations in which they checked the type of trees, their density, their age and health, and determined that there is no feasibility of natural regeneration appropriate for this specific area and that it needed urgent rehabilitation work.

“All the JNF’s work and planting activities are being carried out in accordance with the law. The area in question is an existing forest and the work is to rehabilitate it; all the permits were received when it was [originally] planted.”

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