A number of protected cypress trees in an area of Kfar Shmaryahu slated to become part of the planned Highway 531 were chopped down recently without the knowledge or approval of the relevant authorities, reports the Hebrew weekly Ha'ir Ra'anana. Neither the Kfar Shmaryahu council nor the Jewish National Fund, which must approve the removal of protected trees, were notified of any plans to chop down the trees, and the identity of those responsible is still unknown. According to the report, the trees were felled on agricultural land along the planned route of the controversial highway. But both the National Roads Company, which is building the highway, and the National Planning Committee, which is supervising the project, denied any connection with the chopping down of the trees. And the Ministry of Agriculture, which is responsible for enforcing the law on forests, said it had not received any request to chop down the trees, and that it would investigate the matter. Felling protected trees without permission is a criminal offense punishable by fines or imprisonment. Local residents say the main problem is that no single body has been designated to take responsibility for environmental protection along the highway's route, which will cross the territories of five local authorities. The residents are demanding that the planning and building authorities conduct a comprehensive survey of the plants and trees along the route, with the aim of documenting those that it might be possible to save and replant elsewhere.