Israel’s Open Spaces Protection Fund Finally Launched

Years of campaigning by the Open Landscape Institute (OLI) to persuade Israel’s legislators to establish an Open Spaces Protection Fund (OSPF) has finally reached a successful conclusion with the OSPF’s first multi-million Shekel allocation to 15 important projects.

On April 10th 2013 the OSPF made the landmark decision to allocate NIS 85 million ($23.5 million) to 15 projects that will ensure the conservation and maintenance of some of Israel’s vital open spaces. For the first time in Israel’s 65 year history, financial resources are available to purchase key areas for conservation purposes and for the public’s wellbeing.

The creation of the OSPF was devised by the OLI as a new method of saving and nurturing open natural landscapes outside Israel’s growing cities and to provide funding for the creation of new parks and recreational areas that will double as green lungs. In addition the OSPF is responsible for identifying key areas for conservation, protecting Israel's precious biodiversity and contiguous ecological corridors, and conducting nature and landscape surveys in order to achieve ecological land-use planning to ensure sustainable development in Israel. The OSPF’s funding is guaranteed by law as 1% of the overall income the Israel Lands Authority collects from land development.

The first NIS 85 million in funds has been allocated to an initial 15 projects including: the restoration of the Carmel National Park in the aftermath of the Carmel Fire in 2010; Land purchases for nature reserves; the management and nurturing of the Shikma Park in the northern Negev; an ecological restoration of a significant segment of the Jordan river;  conduction of nature and landscape surveys to ensure sustainable land–use planning;  and planning  of Metropolitan Parks: the Ariel Sharon Park, the Beer-Sheva Park and the Yeruham park. The next batch of projects will be announced in the coming fall.

The OLI, as part of SPNI, works to formulate policy and tools to maintain the natural and cultural legacy encompassed in Israel’s scarce open spaces. OLI was instrumental in incorporating the commitment of the Land Administration to open land preservation and to establish the OSPF in the new land management Law of 2009. OLI and the SPNI than played a vital role in securing its funding for future years. Yoav Sagi, OLI Executive Director is a member of the OSPF directorate representing the Israel environmental NGOs.