KKL-JNF and Manitoba Sign Twin Site Treaty

The partnership agreement was signed by KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler and Manitoba’s Minister of Water Stewardship Christine Melnick at a ceremony held at Lake Hula Park.

October 20, 2010 11:45

KKL-JNF. (photo credit: KKL-JNF)

KKL-JNF and Manitoba Sign Twin Site Treaty:
Lake Hula and Oak Hammock Marsh Park

A twin-site treaty for the promotion of the combined development of two major bird-conservation sites – Lake Hula in Israel and Oak Hammock Marsh in Manitoba – has been signed between KKL-JNF and the government of the Canadian province of Manitoba. KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler declared: “This is an event of far-reaching significance. It proves that we share the same values – scientific progress, education for nature conservation and an awareness of the sacred duty incumbent upon us: to protect the world’s natural resources for the sake of future generations.”

The partnership agreement was signed by KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler and Manitoba’s Minister of Water Stewardship Christine Melnick at a ceremony held at Lake Hula Park. Representatives of both parties concerned were present, together with members of a delegation from the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, Manitoba’s capital. The agreement is designed to formalize cooperation on site development, scientific research, educational activities and management challenges. “What KKL-JNF is doing here in the Hula Valley is protecting the environment,” said Chairman Efi Stenzler. “It is our duty to ensure that the next generation lives in a pleasant environment.”

Minister Christine Melnick, who is known for her profound affection for Israel, said in reply that KKL-JNF is a wonderful partner. “Nowhere else in the world is there an organization like KKL-JNF, and there is no doubt that we shall continue to work together,” she said. “Israel is a marvelous country, and it is founded upon the Jewish spirit of giving. We hope that this collaboration between the two countries will enable Lake Hula and Oak Hammock Marsh nature reserve to reach their full potential both as tourist attractions possessed of a rich and varied ecological system that feeds significant freshwater sources and as major way stations for migrating birds.”

As they toured the lake environs, the delegation members were impressed by the large number of cranes at the site. Like the Canadian guests, these birds, too, had arrived only a few days previously – indeed, the occasion could be regarded as an official welcome for both groups of foreign visitors.

The magnificent spectacle of thousands of cranes landing at the lake, screeching loudly as they do so, makes this site irresistible to all nature lovers. But, apart from the cranes, the tour provided the guests with additional sights: pelicans, ducks, coypus and abundant aquatic vegetation. Even a wild boar made a lakeside appearance as it sallied forth for an evening stroll, sauntering about peaceably among the cranes.

Paul Hunt, Canada’s ambassador to Israel, told those present that during the brief period since his arrival he had already encountered a large number of joint Israeli-Canadian projects, of which Lake Hula was a wonderful example. Jessica Lawson Stein confirmed this by saying that Friends of KKL-JNF in Canada were involved in hundreds of projects throughout the country, in a display of true friendship towards Israel.

Further evidence of the special relationship that has developed between the two signatories was the appointment of Mel Lazareck, President of JNF in Manitoba, as Manitoba’s Special Economic and Community Relations Representative to Israel.

Manitoba and Israel are very different from each other. For example, Manitoba has over 100,000 lakes, some of which are larger than the entire State of Israel, while Israel has only one sizable lake: the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). The two countries’ bird-conservation sites, however, have significant features in common. Both have been restored after being damaged by human activity, and each is located on one of the world’s two foremost bird migration routes: from Europe to Africa and from North America to South America. A great deal of effort has been invested in educational activities at both sites, and both serve as centers for scientific research.

Over 500 million birds pass over Israel every year. The area serves as a bridge between three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa, and it is a vital way station for the migrating flocks. Dr. Omri Boneh, Director of KKL-JNF’s Northern Region, compared it to the last gas station where a traveler can refuel before getting on to a long expressway. At Lake Hula birds can rest and eat before continuing their long and arduous journey.

The site presents complex management challenges and is a model combination of nature, tourism and agriculture, as birds, animals, tourists, visitors and local farmers all share the area around the lake. Because of the damage the cranes cause to nearby fields, KKL-JNF has launched a crane feeding project, which has greatly reduced farmers’ losses. However, because of the program, more and more cranes are forgoing the journey to Africa, preferring to spend the winter on the shores of Lake Hula, and there is a fear that the younger generation of birds will not learn the migration route south. This presents a dilemma that has to be dealt with.

KKL-JNF was among those who established the lake in the early 1990s, and it remains among its managers today. A number of projects funded by Friends of KKL-JNF worldwide - including those in the USA, Australia, South Africa and Canada - are underway at the site. The crane observation point was established with the help of funds donated by Friends of JNF in Montreal, and ongoing support for educational activities, instruction and research is likewise funded by donations from Canada.

Winnipeg’s Oak Hammock Marsh Park covers 36 thousand dunam (approx nine thousand acres). It is the remains of what was once a large lake, and it attracts a great deal of wild life, including some 280 species of birds that either pass through the site or nest in it. Half a million geese and duck pass every year though the park, which is considered one of North America’s prime bird-watching locations. Visitors to the park have thirty kilometers of trails at their disposal, together with a modern visitors’ center. 

The delegation from the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg arrived in Israel for a ten-day visit, during which they improved their knowledge of the country and signed cooperation agreements, including that relating to Lake Hula. The senior member of the delegation was Manitoba’s Premier Greg Selinger, who was obliged to return to Canada before the Lake Hula visit.

Bob Freedman, CEO of the Winnipeg Federation, said that similar delegations visit Israel each year in order to promote cooperation and ensure that both Jews and non-Jews acquire a first-hand knowledge of the country, rather than relying solely on media reports.

Aharon Valency, head of the Upper Galilee Regional Council, within whose jurisdiction Lake Hula falls, summed up by describing the cooperation agreement as the continuation of the wonderful friendship with Canada and the harbinger of many more joint ventures.

For Articles, comments or use please contact
 Ahuva Bar-Lev
KKL-JNF – Information and Publications
Email: ahuvab@kkl.org.il 
 Phone: 972-2-6583354 Fax:972-2-6583493

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