WINNIPEG — The Province of Manitoba and the Society For the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) last week signed a ground-breaking memorandum of understanding relating to ecotourism, birding and the environment.
Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger [Rhonda Spivak photo]
“This agreement is unique. The SPNI has never signed an agreement with a foreign government,” Manitoba Minister of Water Stewardship Christine Melnick, who was at the signing ceremony Oct. 13, said in a statement.
Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger signed the agreement with Avinoam Ben Yitzhak, the director of SPNI in Jerusalem.
This is the first stage in what is ultimately designed to build environmental and ecological co-operation between Canada, Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.
The agreement calls for SPNI and the director of wildlife and ecosystem protection of Manitoba to co-operate in the areas of birding, advancement of ecological tourism and the environment. It calls for Manitoba and Israel to share knowledge and co-operate on research and educational activities to preserve the environment.
Manitoba and SPNI will build teams to work together on mutual concerns of ecotourism, birding, co-ordinating bird ringing, tracking migrating birds, migration and ecological research and preserving bird habitats.
Melnick and Paul Hunt, newly installed Canadian ambassador to Israel, and Imad Atrash, the founder and director of the Palestinian Authority’s Palestine Wildlife Society [PWS], were all present for the signing. The PWS was established in 1999 and is headquartered in Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem in the West Bank.
In a telephone interview, Atrash told The CJN that he hopes in the future to work with Israel and Canada in promoting ecotourism and awareness of nature.
“Instead of tourists coming to the area only to see religious sites, we want to involve them with nature. We want to promote regional ecotourism… The Jordan Valley is a bird flight path. Birds coming from Europe go to Jericho, especially the raptor and the white stork.” he said.
Atrash said the signing ceremony was his first meeting with the Canadians, but added that plans are in the works to have him and Yossi Leshem, an Israeli bird expert, come to Manitoba next June as part of the growing sharing of knowledge relating to birding, bird habitats and protection of the environment.
“Preserving biodiversity is not a local issue – it’s a global issue. Without continental and intercontinental co-operation, degradation of habitats and species that we depend upon cannot be mitigated and halted,” said Amir Balaban, director of the Jerusalem Bird Observatory, in a statement.
“Canada is an enormous country… while Israel is a tiny country…lacking in natural resources. Yet each country… can provide inspiration and new ideas to one another in nature conservation – and work to bring people and nature together,” Balaban said.