The Forest as an Eco-Service Provider

Monday, June 20, 2016 1:43 PM

US Forest Service representatives visit Israel

Representatives of the United States Forest Service (USFS) were in Israel for a workshop and field trip related to goal-oriented forest management, devising master plans and applying them on the ground.
The workshop began with a day of presentations at the ARO Volcani Institute in Rehovot, featuring academic experts and other specialists in forest management. The next day was another day of presentations at the Volcani Institute, during which KKL-JNF personnel and the American representatives expanded on the process of preparing master plans for forest management. On the third and last day, the US Forest Services representatives went on a trip, together with KKL-JNF operatives, to the forests in the Judean Lowland and the Judean Hills, in order to see firsthand how KKL-JNF manages its forests.

Collaboration between KKL-JNF and the USFS began almost thirty years ago. “This contact enriches both parties with professional data,” said Brehan Doud, who is in charge of international programs at the USFS. “There are very diverse ecosystems in the United States, and we can definitely learn from what KKL-JNF is doing so successfully in Israel.”

KKL-JNF’s Chief Forester and Forestry Division Director, Dr. David Brand, noted that forest management with an emphasis on the ecosystem services it provides is a relatively new field at KKL-JNF and worldwide. “We have excellent relations with the US Forest Services and, like us, they also deliberate on how to manage forests with a progressive approach,” said Brand.

In Eshtaol Forest, the group met Gilad Mastai, the KKL-JNF Coastal Region Director. “This part of the forest,” he said, “is for leisure and tourism, so it includes a paved road, scenic routes, hiking trails, recreation areas and historical sites. The public doesn’t have to reach every inch of the forest. Our job is to develop the outing sites and direct the public to them, thereby enabling natural preservation in other areas.”

From an observation point in the forest, the participants viewed an area that had been burned about a year ago and heard how KKL-JNF enables the forest to renew itself and does not do any planting there. There was tree planting in nearby Nachshon Forest, at one of the KKL-JNF Tree Planting Centers where tourists are invited by KKL-JNF to have the memorable experience of planting trees in Israel. This is a good example of how different areas are treated differently in accordance with their defined designations.

“This is my first visit to Israel, and the truth is that there are more trees here than I expected,” said Nikola Smith, USFS Ecologist & Ecosystem Services Specialist. “KKL-JNF and the US Forest Service manage forests in very different environments, but both organizations are trying to change the approach and see the forest as a system that provides ecological services for the benefit of nature and people,” she said. “The main difference is the size and, of course, the different ecosystems.”

At Mitzpe Harel, the participants heard about the importance of preserving historical sites in the forest, and they viewed battle sites of the Independence War, and Burma Road, which led to Jerusalem when it was besieged in the days of the establishment of the State of Israel. From that spot, it was easy to observe the different flora while hearing about the intervention levels in diverse sections of the forest.

For Todd Gartner, in charge of Food Forests and Water at the World Resource Institute, it was his third visit to Israel. He first came as a student with the Taglit Birthright program. “We’re all dealing with similar challenges in the field of forestry, such as wildfires, drought, population pressures and budgets that keep getting smaller,” he said. “Water’s a major concern in many places in the world, and Israel is a world leader in this field, so I’m sure there’s a lot we can learn here.”

Hanoch Tzoref, KKL-JNF Highland Region Director, took the group a short tour on the trails in Martyrs Forest in the Judean Hills. From a panoramic observation point there, there was a breathtaking view of Nahal Kisalon and the surrounding green hills. “Preserving habitats and historical sites are the primary goals that we have defined for these areas,” stressed Tzoref. “The steep slope presents complex challenges in maintaining the area and difficulties in executing forestry work such as planting, thinning and clearing.”

The Forest of the Martyrs is an exemplary model of a goal-oriented forest. The master plan of the forest defines its goals for the next 25 years, dividing the forest into units with different designations such as leisure and hiking, natural treasures, firebreaks, and so on. The configuration of the flora in each area is determined in accordance with the designation.

Forested areas with similar configurations regarding the combination of species and tree density may be treated differently depending on the area’s designation. This is a new approach that KKL-JNF is leading, which is viewed as an important strategic goal. KKL-JNF is currently working on master plans with this approach and on long-term interface plans for other forests.

Like the many thousands of people that visit the area, the members of the group stopped for a brief picnic at the end of the route, in the recreation area of the Yemenite Jewry Forest. From there they drove along the dirt roads in the forest toward Sataf, a site that features the restoration of ancient agriculture.

The Sataf Forest covers an area of more than 70,000 dunams, from the outskirts of Jerusalem to the Western Jerusalem Hills. Because of its importance as a green corridor to the capital city, this forest was selected for the preparation of a master plan. The goal is to manage the great quantity of visitors and deal with the building plans that are a threat to the region.

As they continued viewing the green landscape, Tzoref explained, “We look at the site as a unified complex that includes historical sites, hiking trails and unique scenic formations including orchards, planted forests and natural forests.”

The members of the group climbed the nearby Mount Eitan, where they were impressed by the local flora and enjoyed the beautiful views. Tzoref explained that KKL-JNF had thinned the pines on the mountain to widen the scenic view.

nder the shade of a pine tree on Mount Eitan, a discussion was held to summarize the three days of the workshop. “We’ve explored the topic of goal-oriented forest management, and now we have to see how to apply it on the ground,” said Yahel Porat, Ecology Director in the KKL-JNF Afforestation Division. “It’s important for all of us to learn from other organizations that engage in forest planning and to become acquainted with other points of view.” Personally addressing the American guests, he said, “I have no doubt that this workshop will be a gateway to many more collaborations between us.”