WINNIPEG — A recent agreement will link environmental experts who work to preserve Israel’s Hula Valley in the Upper Galilee with their counterparts in Manitoba, who are responsible for the Oak Hammock Marsh.
Christine Melnick, Manitoba’s minister of water stewardship and Efi Stenzler, the world chairman of the Jewish National Fund-Keren Kayemet LeYisrael
Manitoba entered into the partnership agreement with the Jewish National Fund (JNF) on Oct. 18.
“Thanks to strong partners such as the Jewish National Fund and Ducks Unlimited, we have reached a ‘sister’ marshes agreement that will allow both countries to share their expertise on protecting precious wetlands,” said Manitoba’s minister of water stewardship, Christine Melnick, in a statement.
Melnick and Efi Stenzler, world chairman of JNF-Keren Kayemet LeYisrael (KKL), signed the agreement at the Hula Valley Nature Reserve.
In addition to sharing expertise on wetland science, the agreement will promote environmental stewardship and ecotourism, and provide the opportunity for the development of educational materials.
In a telephone interview, Erez Rotem, JNF emissary for Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, told The CJN that to kick off the partnership, JNF is “looking into inviting staff personnel from Oak Hammock Marsh to Israel in the winter and then Israelis from Hula Valley will visit Oak Hammock Marsh during the summer.”
Rotem said that wetlands are important to both jurisdictions as they “act as a filter for lakes, and remove phosphates and improve the water we drink and air we breathe.”
Mel Lazareck, president of the JNF, Prairie region, said that after the signing ceremony in the Hula Valley, the group “got a tour of the site and saw all of the pelicans and cranes in the Hula. It was fabulous.”
Israel’s Hula Valley was once an important resting and “refuelling” place for migrating birds on their annual trip from Europe to Africa and back. Shortly after the establishment of the state, the Hula swamp and lake was drained to turn it into arable land. However, a lake was kept as a nature reserve.
Tens of thousands of birds of over 200 species, including cranes, storks, pelicans, cormorants and egrets, stay in the reserve, knowing they can find an abundance of food. The reserve is also the home of some rare aquatic plants.
Manitoba’s Oak Hammock Marsh is an important staging area for hundreds of birds that stop and feed there, building up fat reserves before continuing on their journey. Approximately 90 per cent of the birds found at the marsh migrate south, anywhere from the southern United States to the south tip of South America.
Melnick, who has been to Israel five times, was instrumental in bringing about the first-ever Manitoba-Israel Water Symposium hosted by Manitoba in August 2008 and the second Manitoba-Israel Water Symposium hosted by JNF-KKL in January 2010. During those symposiums, attendees from Manitoba and Israel learned that they had a common interest in preserving and protecting wetlands.
The new partnership agreement for wetlands comes on the heels of an agreement relating to birding, bird migration and ecotourism that was signed several days earlier, between Manitoba and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.