Poland has started logging in the ancient Białowieża forest
The Bialowiesza includes some of Europe’s last primeval woodland, despite protests from numerous international environmental fighting to save this unique wilderness in Poland. Bialowieza forest is also recognized as a world heritage site.
“The operation began today,”
national forest director Konrad Tomaszewski. It is his task to harvest wood from non-protected areas of one of the last vestiges of the immense forest that once stretched across Europe. He said the goals were to stop forest degradation by combating a suspected spruce bark beetle infestation, and protect tourists and rangers from harm by cutting down trees that risk falling on trails.
However, as is often the case in such scenarios, nearly half of the trees earmarked for logging are non-spruce varieties, which have been unaffected by the beetle outbreak.
“We’re calling on the European commission to intervene before the Polish government allows for the irreversible destruction of the Białowieża forest,”
said Greenpeace Poland activist Katarzyna Jagiełło.
“We need to halt this [bark beetle]disease in its tracks. We need to ensure that there is a healthy logging of trees, something that is planned. We only want log an area of 18 ha. We want to protect priority habitats for the EU. We are trying to improve and correct the situation.”
contradicts Poland’s environment minister Jan Szyszko.
“The minister does not understand that this insect is a frequent and natural visitor in this wilderness, that it has always existed and the forest has managed to survive!”
Jagiełło said. Wilderness has shown in other wilderness areas like the Kalkalpen NP enormous resilience to the bark beetle.
“The decision to multiply the cutting is not compliant with EU law because it was not preceded by an environmental impact study of the species and the protected sites. A case before the EU court is unfortunately becoming more and more likely.”
said ClientEarth lawyer Agata Szafraniuk.
Greenpeace said its patrols had come across the first signs of logging overnight on Tuesday and Wednesday morning between the eastern town of Hajnówka on the border with Belarus and the village of Białowieża to the north.
Last month, seven non-government groups – including Greenpeace Poland and the Polish branch of WWF – lodged a complaint with the European commission over the logging. EU environment spokeswoman Iris Petsa said at the time that the commission was “concerned” about the project.
Białowieża, which was designated a Unesco World Heritage site in 1979, covers about 150,000 ha in Poland and Belarus. It is home to 20,000 animal species, including 250 types of bird and hundreds of European bison, plus firs towering 50 metres high and oaks and ashes of 40 metres. In Belarus the entire forest is protected as a nature park, but only part of the Polish section is protected.
A delegation from Unesco is due to visit Białowieża between 4 and 8 June to assess the situation. Luc Bas, the director of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) which advises the Unesco world heritage committee said:
“The IUCN is planning a mission to Białowieża next month to assess the situation and the effect of the new logging plans on the World Heritage site. We would advise that, as a precautionary approach, logging should not be proceeding in the Białowieża forest until there has been an assessment of its implications for its world heritage status.”
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