Some five years after the massive fire that claimed the lives of 44 people and left many dunams of woodland on the on the Carmel Mountain scorched, the KKL-JNF continues is still working to restore the forest.
"The forest has renewed itself in all of the areas that were burned," said Klil Adar, the head of the Forests Department in the KKL-JNF's Northern District. "It's a five-year-old forest, and not one that is 50, 60 or 90 years old like what we had before. Dozens of years still need to pass before the situation returns to what it was."
Among other things, the KKL-JNF is researching the optimal density of the forest that would allow for a variety of species and make the spread of fire difficult in the future.
Due to the unchecked increase of pine trees, whose density could reach 600-700 trees per one dunam of land, the KKL-JNF is working to thin them out. The organization seeks to reach a density of several dozens of pine trees per dunam, with the rest of the area filled with broad-leaved trees like oak and terebinth, as well as annual vegetation.
KKL-JNF Chief Scientist Dr. Omri Boneh said on Sunday that in addition to the physical thinning out of trees, the organization has also launched a pilot program that aims to return cattle herds to the forested areas so the animals could aid in the efforts to thin out the trees.
The KKL-JNF is also working to create separation zones between different areas of the forest and between the forest and inhabited areas. Since the great fire, some 550 dunam of separation zones were created.
Forest ranger Micha Silko said that the KKL-JNF is also working to increase the biological variety in the forest by creating suitable habitats to different kinds of plants, as well as creating clearings that would allow different kinds of animals to breed.
In addition, the KKL-JNF worked to restore agricultural terraces that were uncovered in the fire. In the years following the formation of the State of Israel, the terraces were covered by trees that were planted on top of them. Before being covered, the terraces were used for the growing of tobacco.
"Based on aerial photos of the area from 1944, we restored the terraces on some 70 dunam and planted fig and almond trees and strawberry bushes," explained the head of the Western Galilee region in KKL, Michael Weinberg.