2016: A Successful Year for SPNI

Tel Aviv community Photo Galia Hanoch-Roeh

SPNI celebrated many success on land, sea and in the air over the course of 2016. 

Below are highlights of just a few completed and ongoing SPNI campaigns dedicated to the preservation of Israel’s greatest natural resources.

Israel National Trail Online – SPNI kicked off the year with a huge win: giving everyone with a computer access to the picturesque Israel National Trail.  Partnering with Google, SPNI photographed and mapped the entire length of the 1,100-kilometer Israel National Trail, the longest trail ever covered by Google Street View.  The trail was photographed over a 10-week period in the summer of 2016 by SPNI members who carried tracker cameras on their backs – from the heights of Mount Meron to the depths of Lake Kinneret.

High Voltage Power Lines in Hula Valley – The Hula Valley is one of Israel’s premier wildlife hotspots, with over 500 million birds passing through the area during their migratory patterns between Africa and Europe.  Recently, the government attempted to advance a plan to install dangerous high-voltage power lines throughout the valley, a move that would endanger the winged animals that call the valley home. Working together with other green groups, SPNI was successful in halting the construction, ensuring that the Hula Valley will remain safe for local – and visiting – wildlife.

Gazelle Valley Park Photo Dov Greenblat

Stopping Development in Jerusalem’s Forests – The battle to preserve Jerusalem’s “green lungs,” the expansive forests surrounding the nation’s capital, has been raging for well over a decade.  In recent months, SPNI along with the Jerusalem Municipality and other activist groups have been in discussion with the government to convince them to preserve Jerusalem’s fragile forest ecosystem by shifting all building projects inward to the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem, a plan that is fully supported by Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat.  We have secured many initial successes and will continue to fight to preserve Jerusalem’s limited forested areas.

Preventing Oil Drilling in the Golan – SPNI has been leading the fight against attempted drilling in the pristine Golan Heights, an act that would devastate the area's natural ecosystem. Our efforts have brought the issue to the forefront, including extensive media coverage and obtaining significant public support for the continued prevention of any drilling plans.

The Fishing Reform – Though the devastating impact of over-fishing seemed almost irreversible, Israel was finally able to regain control of its waters thanks to the addition of over 500,000 acres of protected water and the introduction of three “no fishing” months every year.  Initiated by SPNI, these efforts, along with new regulations, will allow Israel’s underwater and coastal wildlife to recover and begin to thrive.

The Kishon River Park- The residents of Haifa can breathe a sigh of relief now that Israel's high courts have decided to expand the Kishon River Park's size to over 250 acres. The original plan called for more than 125 acres to be set aside for the expansion of Haifa's port facilities, but extensive petitioning efforts by SPNI and our activist allies convinced the high courts otherwise.

Protecting our Beaches – Over the past decade, developers have been pushing for massive new development projects on Israel's precious coastline. Our efforts successfully blocked legislation and development plans for multiple projects, protecting the unique coastline ecosystems and ensuring free access for all to Israel’s pristine beaches.

Forestation in the Negev – Intensive legal action by SPNI against KKL and the Israel Land Authority successfully derailed plans to plant forests in an area of the Negev desert that wasn't previously forested or suitable as a forest eco-system.  SPNI's appeal to the court resulted in a dramatic reinforcement of the Israel Nature & Parks Authority’s right to object to any planting that they find environmentally unsound.

Ibexes in the Negev desert Tamar Katz

Renewable Energy – By 2020, the Israeli government wants the country to run on at least 10% renewable energy.  SPNI is doing its part to see that this plan reaches fruition by educating Israelis throughout the country about the benefits of reducing the country's carbon footprint and supporting plans to install renewable energy power plants, build wind farms in areas that will not harm the 500 million migrating birds that pass through Israel each year, and outfit existing structures with solar panels, rather than consuming the country’s dwindling open spaces.  

Nature in the City – SPNI’s urban development programming introduces nature into Israel's metropolitan environments through flagship projects like the Gazelle Valley Park in Jerusalem and the installation of a solar panel on the Knesset, the world’s largest such setup on a parliamentary building.  Behind the scenes, SPNI is also working in earnest with municipalities nationwide to pass legislation to ensure that Israel's wildlife is afforded space to live within the country's cities.

Preserving Israel’s Biological Diversification – SPNI has joined forces with some of Israel's biggest infrastructure companies in our efforts to educate their key executives and imbue their planning procedures – from the beginning of the process to the management of the infrastructure itself – with true environmental awareness.

Eilat SPNI Bird Center Photo Dov Greenblat

Champions of the Flyway – With over 200 participants, SPNI’s third annual ‘Champions of the Flyaway,’ an exciting bird race that promotes nature conservation, was the largest and most successful to date.  The competition challenges some of the world's top birders to identify as many bird species as possible over the course of a single 24-hour period. The race took place in southern Israel during the peak spring migration season.