On the 9th of March, Polish deputy minister of environment signed the decision to once again start logging in the primeval forest of Bialowieza, untruthfully claiming that it is the only way to implement the European Court of Justice ruling from April 2018. „The Polish government has had 3 years to find the best way to protect Bialowieza Forest, and after 3 years of idleness it was decided to proceed in a most destructive way,” said Krzysztof Cibor from Greenpeace.
The European Court of Justice ruled in April 2018 that Polish authorities had broken European environmental law by allowing intensive logging in the ancient parts of the Białowieża Forest. Greenpeace activists, other environmental organizations, scientists and thousands of citizens all opposed the devastation of Poland’s most precious forest.
After the ECJ ruling Polish ministry had to halt the large-scale logging. However Poland was also ordered by the Court to retract the compromised decision on logging and to find the proper way to protect habitats and species living in the forest. Unfortunately, the government did nothing to provide adequate protection of the forest. In February 2021 The European Commission warned Polish authorities that financial penalties would be imposed if Poland did not comply with the ECJ ruling. As an answer the minister Edward Siarka signed new documents, which invalidate the compromised decision, but at the same time allows new logging.
New quotas of timber included in the decision are relatively low, however, the documents are breaching environmental law in many ways and are a threat to the nature of the Bialowieza forest:
- They are based on an inaccurate and outdated inventory of the forest habitats that significantly underestimates or ignores the existence of the protected species.
- They allow logging in natural 100-year-old stands.
- A very short time (few months) to carry out the fallings will cause very strong pressure on the unique habitats of Bialowieza.
- The logging plans are not in synergy with the nature conservation plans for Natura 2000.
For three years without logging Białowieża’s habitats have begun to regenerate and the forest shows that it is in the best condition when governed only by nature. This peaceful period is ending now and foresters will once again try to tame nature. It is a significant step backwards in the history of the fight for protection of the entire forest, but Greenpeace and other environmental groups announced that they will continue the struggle to save Białowieża Forest.
Białowieża Forest, stretching on Polish-Belarussian border is the last largely primeval forest on the European lowlands. It is a home to thousands of protected species of animals, plants, fungus and lichens, many of them extinct elsewhere. It is a living museum of natural processes and at the same time – an open air laboratory to observe how nature can help us to tackle climate and biodiversity crises. Only 16% of Polish part of Bialowieza Forest is protected as a national park. The rest is administered by the State Forests – a national authority which collects annually about 2 billions of Euro by logging trees across Poland.