Grazing in KKL-JNF Forests

KKL JNF forests are comprised of a great variety of tree species with an assortment of grassy meadows in their midst. When these meadows dry up in the summer, they can become the cause of fatal forest fires. Grazing in these forest pastures reduces the quantity of dry brush, thereby reducing the danger of wildfires in the summer, while supplying significant quantities of pasture for herds.

 

Forest fires start in the undergrowth (leaves, twigs, grass), and their spreading to the treetops depends on the contiguity of flammable material between the forest floor and the treetops. Proper grazing, which eliminates the undergrowth, considerably lessens the number of forest fires, and their magnitude.
 

Other Effects of Grazing

 

1. Preservation or Creation of Desirable Landscape

In forests and in thickets that grow in forests, grazing changes the landscape significantly. It clears tangled vegetation, removes low branches, gives tall shrubs the form of a tree with a trunk, or trunks, and maintains the “grazing line” that facilitates movement through the forest.

 

2. Conservation of Resources

Sheep at Shaked. KKL Archives.

Most of the natural resources in Israel’s forests today coexisted for many generations together with the grazing of traditional, mixed herds, often with high levels of grazing intensity. Therefore, grazing meant to ensure the conservation of these resources is not a difficult task. However, extending the functions of the forest to include preservation of historical sites, ancient terraces, interesting archeological remains, unusual habitats and unique plant communities, may often require special protective measures. A forester in charge of managing a forest must be aware of those values that are affected by forest grazing and safeguard them inasmuch as they might be harmed by grazing.

 

3. Preservation of Biodiversity and Habitats

The level of biodiversity in dense pine and cypress forests is not especially high, but they might sometimes contain spectacular concentrations of flowers such as cyclamens, anemones and other species. In general, grazing increases biodiversity and promotes the growth of geophytes, which are not preferred by the herds that reduce the quantity of dense grasses that compete with the flowering geophytes. Often, as in forests with extensive meadows of cyclamens, there is not a great deal of pasture in any case, so there should not be any grazing there.

 

4. Leisure, Education, Tourism and Hiking

Forest functions, such as vacationing, hiking, education and research, could be harmed by the presence of animals in the forest. The nuisance of unpleasant smells, turds, flies, and the unsightliness of cages and fences, do not enhance a forest with regard to public purposes, and arrangements must be made so that the animal herds are kept away from sensitive sites and areas. On the other hand, the grazing itself could be an educational and interesting element that exposes the public to the positive and negative effects of animals on the landscape and the vegetation.

The Grazing Interface

Special Situations

 

1. Young Forests

In young planted forests, the trees are small and vulnerable to damage resulting from treading and grazing. Therefore, it is not customary to allow grazing in forests younger than five years old or in forests where the trees have not yet reached a height of 2m.

 

2. Forests Undergoing Renewal

In the season following a forest fire, it often happens that there is natural renewal of trees from sprouts.  When sprouts are sparse, grazing practices may be the same as those for a young forest. However, sometimes the density of the renewed growth is very great, far greater than ideal for a forest. In such cases, additional grazing may be an effective means to thin the renewed growth.

 

3. Woodland Renewal

When one of the goals of the natural woodland interface in a forest (or elsewhere) is to encourage development of natural woodland tree sprouts, one fears the adverse effects of grazing on the survival of the sprouts of the woodland trees. There is no basis for this fear, however, since woodlands existed for many generations with heavy grazing by mixed herds comprised of goats, sheep, cows and other domesticated livestock. Because of the longevity of most woody species of scrub, sustainable woodlands are not dependent on the young plants taking root every year. In the (rare) case when it is feared that grazing could threaten the continued existence of a thicket, grazing should be reduced or avoided in the sensitive areas. In the past, woodland trees were harmed, for the most part, by over-felling, not by being overly grazed.