Post fire rehabilitation – an intricate process

During the November fires, I witnessed firsthand the burning of more than 1,600 hectares of forests and maquis (densely growing evergreen shrub areas). The horrible sight stays with us, but it must not cloud our vision nor discourage us from the rehabilitation process.

Since its establishment in 1901, KKL (Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael), the Israeli Forest Service, has embraced sustainable land management and has adopted policies designed to restore, develop and manage its natural resources including promoting regulations to control grazing and ensure effective water management.

KKL rehabilitates degraded areas all by using inclusive basin-based actions meant to conserve soil and water resources, and by the plantation of superior seedlings. The superior seedlings are produced in KKL nurseries, and each year we at KKL-JNF plant more than a million seedlings all over Israel.

Due to the experience gained in the recent fires, and in order to prevent the next, we need to invest in establishing and maintaining fuel-brakes in forests and around villages located near KKL forests.

Our goals for restoration following the fires require us to invest a huge budget on thinning our old and mature forests, to rehabilitate and establish roads in the forests in order to allow fire-trucks accessibility as well as to improve our communication equipment and personal safety equipment.

Surveys are conducted to assess the extent of the areas that were burnt, removal of burnt material from the areas will be carried out according to security considerations (such as the danger of recurrent fires; scenic and aesthetic considerations, land preservation, protection of natural assets, accessibility and implementation capabilities).

Rehabilitation of the burnt areas are being carried out according to the new forest management policy. In general, the planning of the rehabilitation of burnt areas will be carried out from an inclusive basin-based perspective relying partly on natural regeneration processes.

 Plantings will be done in those cases where natural regeneration does not provide the desired response according to the plan for the area, the purpose of the forest and the ecological services that the area unit is intended to provide for the benefit of the public. As a general rule, it is recommended to wait two years before planting. Planting immediately after a fire will be done only according to specific local needs.

In parallel to plantation, Monitoring of the extent and the intensity of the damage will be carried out in order to make interface decisions to protect remaining and new trees including improving and preparing the forests and recreation areas

Thus, in sum, our rehabilitation process requires a complex set of actions including, but not limited to: survey, removal of burnt material, monitoring as well as working to re-enforce our firefighting facilities. It also includes planting of new trees according to the ecological services that the area unit is intended to provide, in accordance with the guidelines of the new forest management policy.

We greatly appreciate and thank our friends across the world who donated to the rehabilitation process following the fires.

About the Author
Dr. David Brand is KKL-JNF's Head Forester and Director of its Forestry Division. In charge of all KKL-JNF forestry plans, policies and operations. He has led the 2014, KKL new forest policy that encouraged the adoption of Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) practices for planted forests and natural maquis.
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