The case of the Białowieża Forest: What is protection of forest really worth?
Of course hearing that one of the most famous forests in Europe is about to be logged provoked numerous comments to the blog post and public outcry across Europe. EWS Deputy chairman, Vlado Vancura made an excellent point, why is public money spent on creating legislation to protect forests but then it is just ignored or loopholes are added to render laws useless. Dr. Paul Sinnaduri from the UK made a similar comment stating that the Białowieża Forestis part of the EU Nature2000 network but yet the Polish government has presumably done an assessment deeming it necessary to log a primeval forest as it might be possible to re-create a primeval forest elsewhere. Kevin, from Italy had the same sentiments that other EU programs sometimes promote these types of tragedies.
Białowieża Forest is a UNESCO world heritage site and as such it should have some level of protection but does it really? Can UNESCO intervene and put a stop to the planned logging of such an iconic place? Is any forest really ‘protected’? The logging of Białowieża Forest has caught the attention of the public but quietly and without anyone noticing, thousands and thousands of hectares of old growth forest are being cut down legally and illegally in places such as Romania, Kosovo and through the Balkan region. As with the case of Białowieża these areas are supposedly protected under some national or European law. It is estimated that Romania is losing 3 hectares an hour, illegal logging in Kosovo is endemic and ancient forests though out the Balkans and Carpathian regions are being destroyed.
Most Europeans are unaware of the unique wilderness on their doorstep, and even those that are aware may not realize just how endangered it now is. We urgently need to raise awareness. We also can’t overlook the long term economic value of wilderness not only for ecosystem services that are necessary for all of us but also these regions hold enormous potential for sustainable, long-term tourism revenues, but only if they are preserved intact. Logging is mioptic and does nothing for the long term economic stability of a country.
Here is a great description of the Białowieża forest starting at page 33.