The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) has submitted an official objection to a plan by the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemeth LeYisrael) to turn 200 acres of natural land into farmland and greenhouses in a bid to protect endangered small mammals and reptiles.

SPNI filed its objection to the local district planning and building committee against a plan to allow the changes to be made on the sand dunes of Netiv HaAsara in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council, according to Ynet. The Israel Nature and Parks Authority is also in favor of stopping the plan.

SPNI is asking local officials to relocate the plans to empty greenhouses west and north of Netiv HaAsara in order to protect small mammals such as the Greater Egyptian gerbil, Greater Egyptian jerboa and the Anderson’s gerbil, as well as reptiles such as the Desert monitor and Wedge-snouted skink, two indigenous lizards.

“Varanus griseus,” or Desert monitor, Israel. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

“The coastal plain’s ecosystem is in a serious extinction danger. Most of the area’s sand dunes have already been used for housing and agriculture or are threatened by illegal mining,” the SPNI said. “Only 12.5 percent of the coastal plain’s sand dunes are recognized as a nature reserve or a national park. The plan in question suggests transforming 40 percent of this habitat into agricultural land.”

According to Ynet, JNF responded that “the plan was formulated in coordination with local authorities, the Agriculture Ministry, the Israel Land Administration and all the relevant planning establishments and only after the JNF had conducted a comprehensive ecological survey in the area.