A coalition of environmental groups has criticised moves by the Polish state-owned forestry company to restart commercial logging in the Białowieża Forest in eastern Poland. The coalition, which includes Client Earth, Greenpeace Poland, WWF Poland, Greenmind Foundation and the Wild Poland Foundation – have called for the urgent suspension of the plans, which are aimed at opening up […]
The Bialowieza Forest is a trans-boundary property along the borders of Poland and Belarus consisting of diverse Central European lowland forest covering a total area of 141,885 hectares. Enlisted as one of the world’s biosphere reserves and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Bialowieza Forest conserves a complex ecosystem that supports vast wildlife including at least 250 species of birds and more than 50 mammals such as wolf, moose, lynx and the largest free-roaming population of the forest’s iconic species, the European bison . The area is also significantly rich in dead wood which becomes a home for countless species of mushrooms, mold, bacteria and insects of which many of them are endangered of extinction . Another factor, aside from soil type, that impacts the species of plant communities growing in the area is humidity  which can be considered as a function of solar radiation. Understanding the interactions and dynamics of these elements within the environment is vital for proper management and conservation practices. Sunlight below canopies is a driving force that affects the growth and survival of both fauna and flora directly and indirectly. Measurement and monitoring of this variable is crucial.
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.
The Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the European Union has today issued an opinion in which he confirms that it was unlawful to increase logging in the Białowieża Forest. The final judgment of this case is expected in March.
Responding to the opinion, Dariusz Gatkowski, Biodiversity specialist at WWF-Poland, said:
“We welcome the opinion as it is in line with Polish law, international commitments and scientific knowledge. It confirms what WWF has been saying all along, that it was illegal for the Polish government to increase logging in Białowieża and place Europe’s best preserved lowland forest under threat. We expect the final judgement in the case to be based on today’s opinion.”
Together with a coalition of NGOs, WWF today calls on Polish Minister Henryk Kowalczyk to immediately cancel documents surrounding the increase of timber production and to immediately start activities aimed at extending the national park.
On the border between Poland and Belarus, the Bialowieza Forest remains the Europe’s largest and last primeval forest—a Garden of Eden of old-growth trees that have been largely protected for over 7,000 years. Encompassing roughly 400,000 acres, the forest boasts some of Europe’s tallest trees and its largest herd of wild bison. The meadows surrounding this UNESCO World Heritage Site are also a vital source of wild, medicinal herbs. While the area is currently fighting illegal deforestation of these ancient trees, introducing more sustainable harvesting practices becomes essential to protecting the long-term future of this forest and meadow ecosystem and preventing overharvesting.
Fortunately, our partnership with the team at Runo Spolka in the nearby town of Hajnowka, Poland has helped us fulfill our mission to only source sustainably harvested herbs, while also keeping the forest meadows vibrant. By holding ourselves and our partners to the FairWild Standard, we can do our part to protect the biodiversity of this special place, while also ensuring a viable livelihood for our collectors.
Medicinal plants have been subject to overexploitation as long as there have been large populations of humans who value them.
BIAŁOWIEŻA, POLAND—It’s a cool, gray day in early October, and the town of Białowieża in northeast Poland looks peaceful. But outside a three-star hotel, some two dozen environmental activists have gathered, wearing masks with a photo of Poland’s minister of the environment, Jan Szyszko, and white T-shirts that say “I’m a liar.” There’s a rumor that Szyszko is coming to town today. Just opposite the activists, a similar number of people hold banners supporting him, some wearing hard hats and safety vests and others in camouflage hunting outfits. Police cars are pulling up; an ambulance is parked nearby just in case.
Białowieża (pronounced be-ah-wo-VE-zha) is the gateway to Europe’s most primeval forest, famous for its giant oaks, wild bison, wolves, and woodpeckers.
Conservationists describe the forest as having exceptional conservational significance.
At a Glance
Poland has been ordered to cease its current active management operations of the Białowieża forest.
The forest is a World Heritage Site protected by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The country must adopt the court’s rulings or face fines of more than $118,000 per day
A ruling from the European court of justice has ordered Poland to immediately end its deforestation of a World Heritage List woodland or pay a hefty price.
A Nov. 20 press release from the European government stated Polish officials are to cease the current management operations of the Białowieża forest. The court has stated Poland’s current operations are harmful to the woodland, and if the court’s rulings aren’t adopted, the country faces fines of more than $118,000 per day.
Poland stands accused of having put Europe’s last remaining unspoiled forest in jeopardy. As a result, the nation now faces stiff fines for its continued illegal logging activities. Sign this petition to thank the E.U. for taking this threat seriously and holding the Polish government accountable.
Target: Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Union
Goal: Applaud the decision to fine Poland for illegal logging in Europe’s last remaining primeval forest.
The Bialowieza Forest is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, believed by scientists to be the last remaining vestige of forests that once covered most of Europe 8,000 years ago. In spite of this, Polish Minister of Environment Jan Szyszko called for a three-fold increase of logging in this critical forest habitat last year, enraging environmentalists and the global community as a whole.
The European Union’s top court said on Monday (20 November) Poland would be fined €100,000 a day if it did not stop large-scale logging in Bialowieza Forest, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Warsaw has been locked in a legal battle with the EU for months over Białowieża, sitting on the border between Poland and Belarus and home to European bison as well as rare birds.
The nationalist, socially conservative Polish government tripled logging quotas there despite protests by environmental groups and criticism from Brussels that it was violating the bloc’s wildlife protection rules.
The Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice (ECJ) on Monday reiterated its July stance that Poland must stop the logging immediately pending a final ruling in a case the EU’s Brussels-based executive brought in front of the tribunal.
Scientists and environmental campaigners have accused the Polish government of bringing the ecosystem of the Białowieża forest in north-eastern Poland to the “brink of collapse” one year after a revised forest management plan permitted the trebling of state logging activity and removed a ban on logging in old growth areas.
Large parts of the forest, which spans Poland’s eastern border with Belarus and contains some of Europe’s last remaining primeval woodland, are subject to natural processes not disturbed by direct human intervention.
A UNESCO natural world heritage site — the only one in Poland — the forest is home to about 1,070 species of vascular plants, 4,000 species of fungi, more than 10,000 species of insect, 180 breeding bird species and 58 species of mammal, including many species dependent on natural processes and threatened with extinction.
An ancient, untamed enclave in the Polish east, Białowieża is a fairytale forest hosting a colourful cast of creatures.
To travel the country roads from Warsaw to Białowieża is to head deep into Poland’s far east. By the roadside, the regimented rows of snow-topped pines are interrupted by dramatically lit-up onion-domed churches — here Orthodox is the main religion, Lithuanian restaurants abound, and those whose ears are attuned to the difference might hear Belarusian being spoken.
Białowieża is Europe’s largest stretch of primeval forest, straddling the border with Belarus. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s billed as the continent’s answer to the Amazon for its age and biodiversity. But while it’s home to plenty of fascinating creatures, the star of the show is undoubtedly the bison.
The European bison died out in the wild in 1921, as a result of over-hunting and poaching.
At dusk a last bar of orange burns low in the western sky. A silvery sheen covers meadows where corncrakes and tree frogs call under a yellow moon.
The ancient forest is now inky black. Somewhere within, wolves, lynx and elk are waking, but two fragments of its darkness have broken away and watch, silent and massive, as several humans draw closer through the dew-covered glade.
We are 60m from a pair of bison, 800kg relics of the vast, wild woodland that covered much of Europe for millennia, and which survives in all its misty, mysterious, Tolkienian glory in eastern Poland’s Bialowieza Forest.
Bison rest in the forest by day, emerging to feed when the light fades.
At five foot nada, I’m often cautious when it comes to drinking spirits.
Despite being a party pocket rocket if I try and keep up with my longer-limbed pals, before I know it I’m That Girl on the dance floor cutting moves like Beyonce (in my mind) but looking more like Benes (As in Elaine, of Seinfeld fame) and demanding my boyfriend fetch me a chicken burrito, stat.
What’s more, I’ve long wondered if there’s a vodka that actually exists that doesn’t have that ouchy, burnie after-taste. Too many times, I’ve been left reeling after a potent hit of the stuff. So approach with caution has always been my mantra.
There are few travelers to Poland that won’t have come across the local variety of vodka, Zubrowka, at least once on their travels. Zubrowka is memorable not just because of its potency – which can knock the socks of even the most hardened drinkers – but also because of its distinctive label featuring a fearsome-looking bison, or zubr.
Sadly, few travelers are aware of just how precarious the European bison’s existence is today; nor do they realize that these magnificent beasts can actually be seen in the wild.