Would you put your body on the line to stop some of Europe’s oldest trees from being cut down? That’s what hundreds of activists are doing to protect the Białowieża Forest in Poland.

Fifth blockade of the Białowieża Ancient Forest Photo Rafał Wojczal, 2017Fifth blockade of the Białowieża Ancient Forest Photo Rafał Wojczal, 2017

This forest is unique. It’s one of the last remaining parts of the immense ancient forest that once stretched across all of lowland Europe. It sits on the eastern border of Poland and stretches into Belarus.

It’s one of only 4 European forests on the UNESCO World Heritage List. But only 35% is protected from logging.

Last year, the Polish environment minister (and former forester), Jan Szyszko, allowed a threefold increase in logging in the Bialowieza Forest. Even worse, in 2017 he amended the country's law to effectively remove any any kind of control over cutting trees on private lands as well as forests governed by National Forest Holding. This resulted in massive logging all over the country. State-managed forests are no longer obligated to follow EU regulation on the legal protection of species.

European bison in Bialowezia forest by Adam Wajrak European bison in Bialowezia forest by Adam Wajrak

Scientists estimate that Białowieża is home to between 11,000 and 25,000 species. It’s hard to get exact numbers; many remain undiscovered. It’s one of the last places you can find European bison, lynx and rare birds in their natural habitat.

Increased logging not only violates European regulations, it violates our right to the common heritage of this ancient and precious forest. It is illegal in terms of EU law and ignores Poland’s commitments to UNESCO.

The fifth lock clippings Bialowieza Forest photo by Rafał WojczalProtestors march in Bialowezia forest photo by Rafal Wojczal, 2017

Sometimes, you just have to chain yourself to some forestry machines to protect what’s important. Greenpeace Poland and Wild Poland activists have peacefully blockaded the logging areas five times in the last five weeks. They successfully stopped the machines from cutting down some of the most precious tree stands that have been growing for over 100 years.

Last weekend, over 5,000 people marched through Warsaw in the biggest environmental demonstration Poland has ever seen. More and more people keep showing up to defend the forest, from across the region. Two weeks ago, over 800 people broke into the logging area to march through the forest as a sign of civil disobedience.

We will not let this ancient and fragile ecosystem be cut down for profit. We won’t stop resisting until the entire forest is recognised as a National Park, like it is in neighbouring Belarus.

Show the Polish government that the world is watching. Add your support here: ilovebialowieza.com

Marianna Hoszowska is the Head of Communications for Greenpeace Poland