ISRAEL – Chief Christiansen traveled to Israel during the last week of May to review the USDA Forest Service’s longstanding programs in country and to engage with senior U.S. Government officials. As the Chief’s first programmatic trip overseas, the visit provided an opportunity to commemorate the historic 30-year partnership with Israel’s forest service and to review past and prospective technical cooperation activities.
The USDA Forest Service began working in Israel in 1987, when the agency sent firefighters to help battle devastating wildland fires ravaging the forested corridor between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Since then, the Forest Service has developed a close working relationship with the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael–
Jewish National Fund, which serves as the forestry service of Israel, collaborating on forest management issues common to both nations. The mutually beneficial partnership has included technical exchanges on fire, restoration, watershed management, recreation and other topics.
The Chief visited several regions and varied landscapes, including Israel’s central hills, Mediterranean and semi-arid zones. She witnessed partners’ pressing natural resource management challenges and the fruits of the Forest Service partnership at multiple field sites. The first visit was to Mount Carmel, a landscape jointly managed by KKL-JNF and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, to discuss interagency collaboration in forest management and restoration practices following a devastating fire in 2010 that claimed 44 lives. Next, the Chief traveled north to the Hula Bird Sanctuary, a critical and popular migratory route for millions of birds, restored by KKL-JNF with Forest Service technical support in the 1990s. The Chief’s visit continued with a tour of the Beit Keshet Forest, discussing stream restoration, afforestation and reforestation. As a final site visit, the Chief visited the Yatir Forest, Israel’s largest planted forest on northern edge of the Negev Desert.
The Chief also met with KKL-JNF and U.S. Embassy leadership to express gratitude and commitment to the ongoing bilateral partnership and to discuss areas for future collaboration. The U.S. and Israeli delegations shared enthusiasm for technical exchange on fire-adapted communities, approaches to interagency collaboration, forest management planning and stakeholder consultation. The Chief’s trip concluded with a visit to Yad Kennedi, a memorial for the late U.S. President John F. Kennedy, and a tree planting ceremony atop Mount Aminadav.