By MYRON LOVE
On Wednesday August 21, 2019, a meeting was held at Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretative Centre to discuss a renewed collaboration between the Agamon Hula Valley in northern Israel and Oak Hammock Marsh (which is just north of Winnipeg).
In attendance were: Ariel Karabelnicoff, Executive Director JNF Manitoba & Saskatchewan; JNF Canada National Board member Larry Vickar - who is spearheading the renewal of the collaboration; Nathalie Bays, manager of Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretative Centre; Paula Grieef, resident naturalist at the Centre; and Jacques Bourgeois, who is in charge of marketing and communications for Oak Hammock Marsh.
The two organizations will work together to create activities and events that will deal raise awareness and educate the public about bird migration in which both the Hula Valley and Oak Hammock Marsh play important roles.
Both locations are known for their spectacular bird migrations.
A previous such agreement between the two wetlands – which grew out of the 2007 Negev Gala, resulted in wetland symposiums in 2008 and 2010.
The former twin-site treaty for the promotion of the combined development of two major bird-conservation sites – Lake Hula in Israel and Oak Hammock Marsh in Manitoba, which had been signed in October 2010 between KKL-JNF and the Government of Manitoba , expired in 2015.
That older partnership agreement was signed by KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler and then Manitoba’s Minister of Water Stewardship Christine Melnick at a ceremony held at Lake Hula Park.
It was designed to formalize cooperation on site development, scientific research, educational activities and management challenges.
The new agreement, notes Larry Vickar who arranged this partnership,, once again brings together two of the world’s major wetlands.
Oak Hammock marsh is a major stopping off place for geese and other birds on the world’s largest north-south migratory – the Mississippi Flyway, linking the Gulf of Mexico with the Arctic – while the Agmon Hula is an important link on the second longest such north-south flyway, linking the Great Rift Valley in east Africa to marshland in eastern Europe and Russia.
“With the opening of the Stephen Harper Visitor Centre at Agmon Hula scheduled for November, I approached Natalie Bays, asked her if she thought the linkage would be worthwhile and, if so, to put a proposal on paper,” Vickar says.
Ariel Karabelnicoff notes that Oak Hammock Marsh and the Agmon Hula marsh are similar ecological phenomena with similar experiences.
They have a similar history of being drained for agricultural purposes with a small portion of the original marsh preserved and restored in recent years as wetlands as a result of renewed awareness of their importance to the well-being of waterfowl and the water quality of nearby Lakes Winnipeg and Kineret respectively.
Karabelnicoff talks about the promotion of ecotourism that would benefit both sites, as well as the continued opportunities for collaborative research.
He adds that a delegation including past Negev Gala honorees and past presidents of JNF Manitoba/Saskatchewan, along with JNF donors from across Canada will be flying to Israel for the dedication of the new Stephen Harper Visitors Centre, and that Larry and Tova Vickar are sponsoring a delegation from Oak Hammock Marsh that will also be taking part in the festivities.