Local residents' partnership in decision-making over the forest’s character encourages greater responsibility for, and sensitivity to, their surroundings. This active partnership increases the likelihood that they will maintain the forest for themselves and future generations, and is the ideological basis of developing community forests. The goal is for every resident to be able to point to their forest and say "This is mine."
Jerusalem Park. Photo: Ronit Svirsky, KKL-JNF Photo Archive
There are many community forests in Israel that are characterized by their relatively smallness and exposure to the intense pressure of urban development. KKL-JNF, as the body responsible for planting and caring for forests in Israel, cares for these forests according to ideals and standards common in Europe and the United Sates. The urban community forest is a green area adjacent to a city or town that serves the adjacent community. Awareness is increasing throughout the world of the importance of the community forest as a vital environmental resource for ensuring quality of life for local residents.
The community forest is a powerful tool that promotes the connection between local residents and nature. Two opposing forces influence the existence of the community forests. On one hand, the constant pressure of urbanization threatens the forest, while on the other hand, there is a desire to preserve the area of the forest adjacent to the towns and cities with the objective of providing local residents with open forested areas.
The climax of KKL-JNF activities in this area is one of the most significant processes taking place in the field of Israeli forestry in recent years: promoting and caring for community forests with full cooperation of members of the community and its institutions, who take part in the interaction with the life of the forest in their area. The community defines the vision of the forest, learns about its sites and values, participates in planning, managing and maintenance of the forest together with KKL-JNF and signs an agreement to preserve it.
The community forest staff coordinate all matters relating to the forest and the community in cooperation with KKL-JNF, local authorities and residents. The result is the transformation of the forests that previously served as a neglected backyard for the community into a central area for leisure and recreation and a source of pride for residents of the town, its income, educational system, and social activists - many of whom are active in volunteer work in the forest.
Any woodland near a community is a natural candidate for a “community forest.” This is a necessary though not sufficient condition. To be worthy of the title, the process must be based on the following principles:
- Conserving and caring for the community forest, its natural assets and cultural heritage.
- Free access for all residents to all parts of the forest, its uses and the use of its facilities free of charge.
- Co-management of the community forest in mutual partnership with KKL-JNF, the Local Authority and the local community.