Białowieża Forest: threatened by large-scale logging

29 January 2018 | By Ana Canomanuel
Photo by: Obóz dla Puszczy

Since several months, the eyes of Europe are turned to Białowieża, a protected European primeval forest, in Poland’s border with Belarus. As a result of the amendment of the Polish environmental law (lex Szysko), which came into force in January 2017, trees and full biodiversity ecosystems, including the home of the largest European bison population,  became threatened by the permission to large scale logging.

Photo by: Obóz dla Puszczy

The Białowieża Forest is a Unesco World Heritage Site of 1500 km2. Tree species include Oak, Elm and Lime, forming a wide variety of habitats and home to a diversity of animals, including rare species of birds and the European Bison, the largest mammal in Europe.

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Different environmental groups were immediately mobilized by the announcements that put in risk such rich ecosystems. Together with a coalition of European foundations and Nature organizations working in different areas, the Environmental Partnership Association signed a joint position to call for a sustainable management of trees in Poland, addressed to the European Commission. The Commission called then for an immediate suspension of logging in the Białowieża forest, backed by the EU law, and the Habitats and Birds Directives. Unfortunately, intensified logging was reported in several areas of the forest, and Poland was taken to the European Court of Justice, which has imposed a daily penalty of 100,000 euro if Poland doesn’t fight illegal logging. 

Photo by: Obóz dla Puszczy

The European Tree of the year organizers are particularly touched by the events. The 2017 European Tree of the Year laureate was indeed Oak Jozef, one of many trees which are part of the Polish cultural history. Dąb Józef played a huge part in saving one Jewish family from the oppression of the Nazis in WWII. Many more trees right across Poland have their own ‘story’ and have other equally important roles to play in enriching our lives.

Photo by: Rafał Godek

UPDATE: The situation in Białowieża Forest has changed since this article was first written.  Logging in the area has been ruled illegal by the EU’s highest court. Click here to read more. 

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