Haifa is the third-largest city in Israel and a major center for business, industry, education, and culture. The city stretches from the Mediterranean coast to the slopes of Mount Carmel, where extensive forests of oak, pine, olive, laurel, and eucalyptus are protected as part of Israel’s largest national park.
Mount Carmel and the areas around Haifa are subject to the risk of severe wildfires that endanger residents, property, and the natural environment. Fires in 2010 scorched nearly half the nature reserve and cost more than 40 lives, while fires in 2016 spread into the city causing extensive damage.
The city of Haifa is working closely with Cities4Forests, the Israeli forestry authority, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael – Jewish National Fund (KKL – JNF), and the U.S. Forest Service International Programs office to apply an “ecosystem services approach” to managing the region’s forests in order to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires and secure resources such as water supply, timber and non-timber forest products, and cultural and recreational values.
The city of Haifa, the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael – Jewish National Fund (KKL – JNF), and the U.S. Forest Service International Programs Office are working with Cities4Forests to transform forest management policies in Haifa’s nearby forests. Building on Israel’s new forestry management master plans, these new policies account for the variety of benefits forests provide to residents, including watershed services, wildlife habitat, and recreation. The new policies emphasize natural processes, native species, landscape diversity, and minimal human intervention. One of the primary goals of these new programs is to reduce fire risk across landscapes that had been reforested as part of a national timber production program.