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European Commission calls: stop logging in ancient Białowieża Forest!

Informacja prasowa - 13 lipca, 2017
European Commission takes Poland to European Court of Justice over logging in Białowieża Forest an environmentally protected site, as part of the Natura 2000 network [1]. It is a huge defeat of Poland’s Minister of Environment Jan Szyszko, who is fully responsible for allowing a three-fold increase in timber harvesting in areas of the Forest which were so far excluded from any intervention. EU Commission calls as well for immediate suspension of logging operation in Białowieża Forest. “We hope that this signal from European Commission eventually will prompt Polish authorities to halt devastating one of the last remaining natural lowland forest complex in Europe” – Robert Cyglicki from Greenpeace Poland says.

On March 2016, Polish Environment Minister adopted a decision approving a modification to the forest management plan for the Białowieża Forest District, one of three forest districts in Białowieża Forest. The decision allows for a three-fold increase in timber harvesting as well as for active forest management measures in areas which were so far excluded from any intervention due to their nature conservation value. The Polish authorities have been explaining their decision by the need to combat the outbreak of the bark beetle despite the scientific evidences showing, that these measures are ineffective in complexes like Białowieża Forest. Moreover – as European Commission noticed, logging in old parts of the Forest are not compatible with the conservation objectives of the site and is likely to adversely affect the conservation of the habitats and species protected by the Natura 2000 site, as well as cause irreparable biodiversity loss. In addition, the decision to increase logging was preceded by an inappropriate assessment of the impacts of the measures on the Natura 2000 site.

Greenpeace is objecting the Polish Environment Minister’s decision since the beginning. Greenpeace activists, together with Dzika Polska Foundation provided Forest Patrols in Białowieża, which gathered data about logging in some of the oldest and environmentally priceless parts. Coalition of environmental organizations – Greenpeace, Dzika Polska, Greenmind, ClientEarth, OTOP-Birdlife Poland, WWF and Pracownia na rzecz Wszystkich Istot – was alerting that the logging is a breach of Polish and European law. It was one of the reason why European Commission started the infringement procedure over logging in summer 2016.

Robert Cyglicki from Greenpeace Poland said:

"Commission's decision is a very strong signal that scandalous logging allowed by the environment minister Jan Szyszko is devastating not only for the precious Białowieża Forest, but for Poland as well. The interim measures, which force minister Szyszko to immediately stop cuttings in the Forest, are a very good news for the wild nature, our common heritage, and all the people of goodwill - among them Greenpeace activists who took part in blockades of logging during last few weeks. Despite numerous calls from the scientific community, local community, international organisations and voices of tens of thousands citizens, the minister continues to treat the Forest as a mere plantation of trees. Worse yet, ministerial decisions threaten many rare species of animals, plants and fungi that depend on old and dead trees that are massively cut and removed from the Białowieża Forest."

[1] http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-17-1948_en.htm