FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jodi Bodner
JNF Director of Communications
212-879-9305 ext. 221
JNF Responds to Rising Fuel Costs
Distributes Wood to Stave Off Illegal Tree Cutting
November 27, 2007 -- Northern Israel -- Looking to head off the growing problem of illegal tree felling that takes place every year, causing harm to the woodlands, Jewish National Fund-Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (JNF-KKL) is now in its third year of a project to distribute firewood at a number of centers in northern Israel.
The source of this wood is dead trees and branches that have been removed in the course of regular pruning and forest maintenance. Some 50 people work in the forests in the north of Israel; among other tasks they fight the illegal tree cutting.
JNF rangers and foresters attribute the increase in the number of thefts mainly to the rising price of fuel and people’s need to heat their homes as winter approaches.
“The distribution campaign goes hand in hand with two of JNF’s main goals,” said KKL World Chairman Efi Stenzler, “ongoing woodland maintenance and contributing to the community.
“Heating one’s home is a basic need on cold winter days and so the demand for wood increases at this time of year. Our campaign provides the public with firewood, while at the same time conserves the forests and open areas.”
“We believe that a large number of those who cut down trees are motivated by financial distress,” said Omri Boneh, director of JNF’s northern region. "Now we have provided a special area, which on the one hand allows the woodland to be thinned under supervision in an organized fashion thereby conserving the trees, and on the other hand provides people with wood for heating their homes in the traditional manner.”
JNF charges a mere 70 shekels per ton -- just enough to cover expenses.
Every report of a rise in the price of fuel on the New York stock market worries Yossi Karni, a JNF forester in Biryia Forest. “Over these past few years we’ve suffered an epidemic of tree felling,” he said. “The thieves have damaged even those trees that are most precious to us ancient oaks, arbutuses and even cedars.”
Fines for illegal tree felling can rise to 13,000 shekel and/or six months imprisonment; every year 70-120 cases are brought to court.
Avraham Weiss, JNF’s wood production officer, is responsible for deciding the trees’ fate. He walks through the woods with an orange bucket on his arm marking those trees that have to be cut down. The saws follow in his wake. “Instead of taking 100 years to grow a tree can complete its growth in 30-40 years just by thinning it,” he explains. “The trees I mark for felling are weak or unhealthy. I leave the healthy ones to grow and develop.”
Last year 2,000 tons of wood were distributed; a similar figure is anticipated for this year. Already 600 families -- Jews, Muslims, Christians and Druze -- have approached JNF requesting wood.
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Jewish National Fund (JNF) began in 1901 collecting coins in blue boxes to purchase land and return the Jewish people to their homeland. In over 106 years, JNF has evolved into a global environmental leader and become the central address for the land and people of Israel. JNF has planted 240 million trees. Built over 1,000 parks and recreational areas. Constructed security roads. Educated students around the world about Israel. Created new communities so that Jews from around the world would have a place to call home. Discovered drip irrigation and new means of growing plants under arid conditions, bringing green to the desert. Built over 190 reservoirs and water recycling centers, increasing Israel’s water supply by 10%.
As a United Nations NGO, JNF sponsors international conferences on desertification, shares afforestation techniques and funds research on arid land management. Is restoring northern Israel, making it home again to its residents. Is supporting Israel’s newest generation of pioneers by developing the Negev Desert, Israel’s last frontier. For more information on JNF, call 888-JNF-0099 or visit http://www.jnf.org/. JNF is a registered 501(c)(3) organization.