Iconic Białowieża Forest to be logged

There are plans by the polish government for the Iconic Białowieża Forest to be logged in the coming years!

The Białowieża Forest (ca. 1,500 sqkm) is the famous lowland forest in Europe! It is a last large piece of low land forest in Europe! The Białowieża National Park has been protected since  1932  and inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1979 and extended to include the Belarusian part in 1992. In 2014, as a result of the request of local communities, the Białowieża National Park, scientists and foresters, UNESCO accepted a large extension of the property of 1418.85 km2 with a buffer zone of 1667,08 km2. According to UNESCO description: The area has an exceptionally conservation significance due to the scale of its old growth forests, which include extensive undisturbed areas where natural processes are on-going.

Destruction of ancient forest is a criminal act

Despite high natural values of the entire Polish part of the Białowieża Forest and ongoing requests to protect the entire forest, majority of the area is still managed by the Polish State Forest Service and what is even worse recently developed annex to the management plan assumes a significant increase of the harvest limit for the next 6 year (until 2021), namely logging of 318,000 qm of wood, which is fivefold more than planned for the entire decade. What is even worse, the new plan foresees logging of 198,900 qm of large-size timber wood, partly in old-growth forests, what is 258 fold more than planned for initial FMP from 2012 to 2021.

Effect of Bark beetle sanitation logging in the Carpathians

According to the Polish State Forest Service the plan to increase of harvest limit is the only way to hamper the on-going bark beetle outbreak and to save spruces not affected by these insects. In opinion of scientists conducting studies in this unique forest, nature conservation organisations and environmentalist, the “anti-bark beetle battle” is nothing more than a pretext to retreat from the previously accepted conservation strategy, and start to gain a substantial income from the forest management in the Białowieża Forest.

According to the scientists  Grzegorz Mikusinski & Malgorzata Blicharska: ” This decision is an outcome of a long-term conflict about the fate of this Forest, focused around the debate if it may maintain its value without human intervention. Foresters with support of a large part of local population believe that the Forest requires continuous care in form of silviculture measures that “protect” the forest from unwanted changes like accumulation of dead-wood, lack of regeneration of desired species and presence of dying trees perceived synonymously with dying forest.

On the other hand, environmentalists and scientists focus on the value of the Białowieża Forest’s biodiversity linked to natural processes. For a long time, they have been proposing to cover the whole Polish part of Białowieża Forest with National Park (It’s presently only 16 % of the area). The conflict seemed to be solved three years ago. The Park was not enlarged then, but instead new management plans drastically lowering logging levels in the managed part of the Forest were introduced.”

The European Wilderness Society fully supports the opinion of scientists conducting studies in this unique forest, nature conservation organizations and environmentalist, that the “anti-bark beetle battle” is nothing more than a pretext to retreat from the previously accepted conservation strategy, and start to gain a substantial income from the forest management in the Białowieża Forest.

More information can be found here and here.

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12 thoughts on “Iconic Białowieża Forest to be logged

  1. Is this in any way connected to the huge increase in wood burning stoves and the ever increasing demand for firewood and wood pellets to burn in power stations?

  2. Many MEP and EC Employees are on our Mailing List. Nobody can now say: “We did not know!”

  3. So, given that Puszczca Bialowieska is part of the Natura 2000 network (EU Habitats and Birds Directives) presumably, the Polish Government has undertaken a full appropriate assessment, concluded that the felling operations are unavoidable and is therefore able to provide a replacement primeval forest elsewhere in Poland???

  4. NO !!!……NO !!!………logging. We MUST keep the world’s forests INTACT !!!

  5. Dear Kevin, could you give me some information about Italian logging projects, please?

    I think Polish plans for Białowieża Forest are very terrible! It’s a unique place in Europe… for now, I have signed the petition… I love Białowieża!

  6. That is a very good article and thank you for adding your voice to this debate. If someone would like to read more about UNESCO context and Białowieża case, here is interesting blog:

  7. The problem are the biomass and logging financial supports of states, local communities and european union programs (like agriculture programs, development programs, ando so…) sometime promoting this trafedies. The most forest cutting (logging) surface in Italy is after that programs for example… Never called logging, but this is in fact. Also and sometimes especially, in protected areas.

  8. Yes, it is! I have always question in my mind in the situation like this: Why do we pay big money to achieve legislative protection of the areas like this and then we (society) pay even bigger money to find a loophole to damage, log, exploit these areas…???

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Join more 100+ forest experts demanding a radical change in German forestry management.

Sign the Open Letter to the German Federal Minister of Forestry and Agriculture

Open Letter to the German Ministry of Food and Agriculture

Federal Ministry of
Food and Agriculture
Minister Julia Klöckner
11055 Berlin

Dear Minister Klöckner,

The current situation of the forest in Germany is worrying. It is a forest crisis not only driven by climate change. The current crisis management of the forestry industry is backward-looking and harmful to the forest. The declaration announced at the meeting of ministers in Moritzburg can be described as a `Moritzburg declaration of bankruptcy´. We call on the state forestry industry to, instead of expensive rushed actions, finally carry out an expert analysis of its own work and to involve all stakeholders in this process. What is called for is a consistent departure from plantation forestry and a radical shift towards a management that treats the forest as an ecosystem and no longer as a wood factory.

On 1stAugust 2019, five forestry ministers of CDU and CSU-led states adopted a so-called “master plan” for the forest in Germany, which was affected by heat, bark beetles, fire and drought. As of 2020, the federal government is to make 800 million euros available as a reaction to climate change. This money is to be used to repair the damage caused, reforest the damaged areas and carry out `climate-adapted´ forest conversion – including the use of non-native tree species that have not yet been cultivated in the forest. Research should therefore focus on on tree species suitability and forest plant breeding in the future – keyword: `Climate-adapted forest of the future 2100´.

Remarkably, the damage caused primarily by the extreme drought of 2018 is attributed solely to climate change. Climate change is meeting a forest that is systemically ill due to the planting of non-native tree species, species poverty, monocultures, uniform structure, average low age, mechanical soil compaction, drainage etc. A healthy, resistant forest would look differently! The master plan emphasizes: sustainable, multifunctional and `active´ forest management remains indispensable – and thereby means that its unnatural state cannot be changed. Reference is made to the `carbon storage and substitution effects´ of wood products. The use of wood, e.g. in the construction industry, should be increased and thus the demand for wood should be further fueled – while knowing that the forest in Germany already cannot meet this demand. In fact, forest owners are suffering from poor timber prices due to an oversupply of trunk wood on the world market.

All these demands make clear: the current forestry strategy, which has been practiced for decades, should not change in principle. The concept is simple: cut down trees – plant trees. At best, the `design´ of the future artificial forests consisting of perfectly calculated tree species mixtures, that are believed to survive climate change without damages, can be changed. In all seriousness, the intention is to continue selling the public a so-called `future strategy´ to save the forest. This strategy seamlessly follows the model of a wood factory, that is met with general rejection and must be regarded as a failure in view of the coniferous plantations that are currently collapsing on a large scale. An essential part of the forests that have currently died is exactly the part that was reestablished in 1947 as coniferous monocultures on a much larger area than today. There is only one difference to the situation at the time: considerable amounts of money are to be made available from taxes for forest owners this time.

Climate change is progressing, and this, without a doubt, has massive impacts on all terrestrial ecosystems, including forests. To pretend that the last two years of drought alone caused the disaster is too cheap. On closer inspection, the disaster is also the result of decades of a forestry focused on conifers – in a country that was once naturally dominated by mixed deciduous forests. People do not like to admit that for more than 200 years they have relied on the wrong species of commercial tree (spruce) and have also created artificial, ecologically highly unstable and thus high-risk forest ecosystems. A whole branch of business has become dependent on coniferous wood. And now the German coniferous timber industry is on the verge of bankruptcy.

It would only have been honest and also a sign of political greatness if you and the forestry ministers in Moritzburg had declared: Yes, our forestry industry has made mistakes in the past, and yes, we are ready for a relentless analysis that takes into account not only purely silvicultural, but also forest-ecological aspects. Instead, you have confined yourselves to pre-stamped excuses that are already familiar to everyone and that lack any self-critical reflection.

Clear is: We finally need resting periods for the forest in Germany, which has been exploited for centuries. We need a new, ecologically oriented concept for future forest – not a hectic `forest conversion´, but simply forest development closer towards nature. This gives the forest as an ecosystem the necessary leeway to self-regulate and react to the emerging environmental changes. We need a systemic forest management that is no less profitable than the present one, but must be substantially more stable and resistant to foreseeable environmental changes. The aid for forest owners that all citizens are now required to pay through their taxes is only politically justified in the interest of common good, if the forests of the future that are being promoted by it, do not end up in the next disaster, some of which is produced by the forest management itself.

That is why the signatories request from the the Federal Government, and in particular you, Mrs Klöckner, a master plan worthy of the name:

On disaster areas (mainly in public forests!) reestablishment through natural forest development (ecological succession), among other things with pioneer tree species, is to be brought about. In private forests, ecological succession for reestablishment must be purposefully promoted. Larger bare areas should be planted with a maximum of 400 to 600 large plants of native species per hectare in order to permit ecological succession parallelly.
To promote ecological succession, the areas should no longer be completely and mechanically cleared; as much wood as possible should be left in the stand (to promote optimum soil and germ bed formation, soil moisture storage and natural protection against browsing). In private forests, the abandonment of use in disaster areas should be specifically promoted for ecological reasons and in order to relieve the burden on the timber market.

Regarding the promotion of reestablishment plantings in private forests: priority for native tree species (of regional origin); choose wide planting distances in order to leave enough space for the development of pioneer species. For the forests of the future: Minimize thinning (low-input principle), build up stocks through targeted development towards old thick trees, protect the inner forest climate / promote self-cooling function (should have highest priority due to rapidly progressing climate change!), prohibit heavy machinery, refrain from further road construction and expansion, permit and promote natural self-regulatory development processes in the cultivated forest and on (larger) separate areas in the sense of an compound system; drastically reduce the density of ungulate game (reform of hunting laws).

Like in the field of organic agriculture, which has been established since the 1980s, the crisis of our forests should be the reason today to transform at least two existing forestry-related universities. They should be turned into universities for interdisciplinary forest ecosystem management. This is a contribution not only to the further development of forestry science and silviculture in Germany, but also of global importance! The goal must be to produce wood through largely natural forest production and to start with it here in Germany, the birthplace of forestry.

Motto: SYSTEMIC FOREST ECOSYSTEM MANAGEMENT INSTEAD OF WOOD FACTORY

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