Beekeepers have scored at least a temporary success in their battle to save the country’s eucalyptus trees: On Sunday, the Agriculture Ministry froze a decision by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority to cut down many of these trees, which constitute an important source of nectar for the bees.
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The nature agency says the eucalyptus is an invasive species that has taken root in many of the country’s nature reserves. Moreover, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority says, it emits substances that inhibit the growth of other plant species in its vicinity. Consequently, the agency has made it a policy to eliminate eucalyptus trees.
The beekeepers, however, say the eucalyptus provides essential food for the bees, and therefore, large-scale destruction of eucalyptus groves is inappropriate.
Over the past year, according to the Israeli Honey Board, eucalyptus trees have been cut down in the Hula Nature Reserve, the Palmahim National Park, the Tel Dan Nature Reserve and nature reserves on the Golan Heights.
Hertzel Avidor, the Honey Board’s chief executive, warned that the destruction of eucalyptus trees in the Majrasa region of the Galilee alone will harm some 1,500 hives.
A single eucalyptus tree can provide food for an entire hive capable of producing 30 to 50 kilograms of honey, he said.
Eucalyptus trees in the Nahal Alexander National Park, in the Emek Hefer Regional Council, were cut down over the past several days. But after a protest by area residents and beekeepers, the removals were halted.
With the support of the regional council, a complaint was filed with the Agriculture Ministry’s forest commissioner. It claimed that the Israel Nature and Parks Authority had failed to obtain the commission’s permission and to publicize the tree removals in advance, as required by law.
In response, Forest Commissioner Hagai Snir ordered the nature and parks agency to halts its removals of eucalyptus trees until further notice.
“Upon being informed of the felling, the ministry’s forest commissioner halted work at the site,” a ministry spokesman said. “This is because it wasn’t approved in advance as part of the annual work plan that the Nature and Parks Authority is obligated to submit to the ministry. This is an area comprising 120 dunams [30 acres}, of which 100 dunams have already been felled.
“A tour of the area has been scheduled for after Sukkot, and at the same time, the forest commissioner will publish the Nature and Parks Authority’s felling request for public comment,” the statement continued. “After receipt of the comments and the tour of the site, a decision will be made about the area that remains.”
A spokesman for the Israel Nature and Parks Authority said that at the Agriculture Ministry’s request, it had stopped cutting down the trees “for the sake of completing the inter-agency coordination. After this process is completed, a decision will be made on how to act.”
Boaz Kanot, the chairman of the beekeepers’ association, vowed to intensify the battle against the destruction of the eucalyptus groves “until an agreement to which all the sides are party is reached. We won’t agree to the destruction of nature and a threat to thousands of hives. Without bees, the pollination of agricultural crops won’t happen in the areas where the trees have been felled.”