The Court of Justice of the European Union (CURIA) ruled Tuesday that Warsaw’s forest management operations had violated EU laws, resulting in the loss of part of Europe’s Puszcza Bialowieska Natura 2000 pristine forest site, which is located on the Polish-Belarusian border.
The forest, which straddles the border with Belarus, is home to the nearly extinct European bison and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Luxembourg-based court said Poland had failed to explain what “public safety” concerns were being addressed by the logging and that a 2015 management plan did not identify any potential spruce bark beetle threat to the forest.
Under the EU’s Habitat Directive, member states must take appropriate conservation measures for special areas.
“In today’s judgment, the Court declares that Poland has failed to fulfill its obligations [to preserve the integrity of the site]”.
The Polish government has argued that cutting down trees was needed to make forest paths safe for hikers and to protect existing trees from a beetle bark infection. They held protests and brought the case before the court past year.