By Yuval Azoulay

Herders grazing their livestock on designated pasture lands will now be required to report illegal construction or dumping on those lands, according to a new Agriculture Ministry directive that will be presented to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation at some point over the next few months.

For years, a shortage of inspectors complicated the enforcement of building and dumping codes. Should the measure be passed, however, herders will now be tasked with maintaining law and order on the very lands that provide their livelihood.
The government set aside a total of two million dunams, spread across the country from the Negev to the Galilee, as grazing land.

Every year the Agriculture Ministry’s pasture authority grants around 450 permits to cowherds and shepherds to tend their flocks on terrain that is generally both vast and isolated, and therefore difficult to monitor.

Shmuel Friedman, the head of the authority that governs the pasturelands, said yesterday, “There is a mutual interest between the state on one hand, and shepherds and cowherds on the other. We don’t want intruders to put up illegal farms [on grazing land] or others to dump their construction waste there. The herders want the areas to be clear for the benefit of their sheep and cattle, and that’s why we’re asking every permit holder to immediately report any illegal activity they witness.”

Friedman said that herders who fail to report such activity could have their permits revoked.

“These are comprehensive reforms over the way grazing lands are dealt with in Israel,” Friedman said.

NIS 60 million has been budgeted to preserve pastureland over the next three years, officials at the pasture authority noted yesterday, for fences, drinking troughs and paved pathways.

A number of inspectors will also be appointed to bolster the efforts of the herders themselves.

Meanwhile, the pasture authority plans to designate several thousand additional dunams as grazing land, much of it on the Golan Heights.

“We have learned that areas designated for grazing are better maintained, as in the case of Kibbutz Sde Boker,” Friedman said, referring to the pioneering Negev kibbutz. “There, illegal building on the part of Bedouin has increased, but only up to the pasture fences, which limited them from taking over state-owned land.”