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KKL-JNF has recently embarked upon a project for the distribution of firewood at a number of centers in northern Israel. The source of this wood is dead trees and branches that have been removed in the course of regular pruning and forest maintenance. KKL-JNF has decided to distribute the wood in the hope that this initiative will help to put a stop to the rise in the number of cases of illegal tree felling that take place every year, especially during the winter months, causing irreparable harm to the woodlands. KKL-JNF rangers and foresters attribute the increase in the number of thefts mainly to the rising price of fuel and people's need to heat their homes as winter approaches.
"The distribution campaign goes hand in hand with two of KKL-JNF's main goals: ongoing woodland maintenance and contributing to the community," said KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler. "Heating one's home is a basic need on cold winter days and so the demand for wood increases at this time of year. Our campaign provides the public with firewood, while at the same time conserving the forests and open areas."
Omri Boneh, Director of KKL-JNF's Northern Region, said, "We believe that a large number of those who cut down trees are motivated by financial distress. Now we have provided a special area, which on the one hand allows the woodland to be thinned under supervision in an organized fashion - thereby conserving the trees - and on the other hand, provides people with wood for heating their homes in the traditional manner."
Every report of a rise in the price of fuel on the New York stock market worries Yossi Karni, a KKL-JNF forester in Biria Forest. "Over these past few years we've suffered an epidemic of tree felling. The thieves have damaged even those trees that are most precious to us - ancient oaks, arbutuses and even cedars".
Amikam Riklin, Director of KKL-JNF's Inspection Unit, added, "Thousands of trees are felled every year without a license. Trees are cut down every day, most of them for firewood. The quantity of wood cut varies from a tractor-and-trailer load or a pickup-full to a whole truckload of firewood, all cut down without a license. In the course of the past week two thirty-ton containers full of cut wood were apprehended on Israel's roads."
KKL-JNF Wood Production Officer Avraham Weiss is responsible for deciding the fate of the trees. He walks through the woods with an orange bucket on his arm, and marks those trees that have to be cut down. The saws follow in his wake. "Instead of taking 100 years to grow, by thinning, a tree can complete its growth in 30-40 years," he explains. "The trees I mark for felling are weak or unhealthy. I leave the healthy ones to grow and develop."
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