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.