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SAWS OFF THE BIAŁOWIEŻA PRIMEVAL FOREST!

The National Council of the Polish Green Party Zieloni was deeply concerned and outraged upon receiving information about preparations being made by Poland’s State Forests and inspired by the Polish government to begin mass logging in the Białowieża Primeval Forest, which included plans for a deceitful media campaign.

 THE FOREST WAS HERE BEFORE MANKIND ARRIVED

 

Aside from being widely criticised by various ecological organisations, the logging plans have already been protested by various institutions, including the Nature Conservation Committee of the Polish Academy of Sciences (here) and the State Council for Nature Conversation (here).

 

By appointing Professor Jan Szyszko to the function of Minister of Environment, Jarosław Kaczyński has betrayed the efforts introduced by his brother Lech to preserve the Białowieża Primeval Forest for future generations. Jan Szyszko was the author of the Rospuda Valley conflict and is a hunter with close ties to the State Forests. For years he has supported the unscientific and heretical point of view that the Białowieża Primeval Forest is dying as a result of too little forester intervention.

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On 17th January 2016, the Polish Green Party Zieloni is organizing a March of the Ents in defence of the Białowieża Primeval Forest. Join us!

 

It should be emphasized that it was President Lech Kaczyński who appointed the panel that brought about the long-negotiated compromise between the interests of the State Forests, living off sylviculture and the timber trade, who have always perceived the Białowieża Primeval Forest as a tasty morsel, and the collective interests of the Polish and European people and the whole of humanity, current and future generations, by whom the last relatively natural forest in Europe is considered to be our valuable common heritage. The collective interests of people as well as those of nature itself, its biological diversity and the thousands of plant and animal species living in the forest are represented by ecological organisations, which do not reap any material gains from the exploitation of the Forest’s riches.

The compromise achieved by the Białowieża Forest Panel under President Lech Kaczyński’s auspices allowed for logging in the area of the forest surrounding the National Park; however, only in a very limited scope and ensuring the full protection of forest stands over a hundred years old. As a result, the Białowieża Forest has begun to regain its natural character, while simultaneously the European Commission at that time decided to suspend the on-going proceedings against Poland for violating the EU directives concerning Nature 2000 conservation zones. In addition and as a result of these developments, the Białowieża Primeval Forest became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This state of affairs was respected by subsequent minsters from the PO-PSL coalition.

The Białowieża Primeval Forest. Photo WildberryPassion. CC-BY-SA 3.0

The Białowieża Primeval Forest. Photo WildberryPassion. CC-BY-SA 3.0

 

Today, under false pretences, a Forest Management Plan (Plan Urządzania Lasu – PUL) has been put forward by the Białowieża Forestry Management for the years 2012-2021, and it seems that similar changes are being prepared for two neighbouring Forestry Managements. While in the original document, the average annual timber production was to reach an amount of 6,347 m3 net, the current annex raises this number to 52,982 m3 net, i.e. over eight-fold. Simultaneously, the forest surface percentage that will be included in the logging plans has risen from 21% to 58%. This signifies a drastic increase in the intensity of forest stand usage within the Nature 2000 conservation area “Puszcza Białowieska” PLC200004.

Such a decision is against the law as it violates the regulations of the transposed EU Council Directive 92/43/EEC (the so-called Habitats Directive) and the agreement reached in 2014 by the Republic of Poland with UNESCO concerning the conservation of the Białowieża Primeval Forest as a site added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The effects of this imprudent decision dictated by corporate interests will be the reopening of the so-called “infringement procedure” by the European Commission so as to check the potential influence of the introduced changes on the execution of the Nature 2000 zone’s conservation goals, and in consequence it may potentially lead to Poland being fined. In addition, this may lead to the loss of the UNESCO Special Area of Conservation status, which would damage our credibility and result in the negative promotion of our country.

As demonstrated by the ecological Greenmind Foundation within the framework of superficial social consultations, both these dangers are very real as the proposed logging plans significantly infringe upon the conservation conditions of numerous species, primarily the Eurasian three-toed woodpecker and the white-backed woodpecker. The report prepared by the ecologists states the following: “There can be no doubt that the large-scale removal of spruce trees as planned in the PUL Annex, which does not omit hundred-year-old forest stands and encompasses 60% of the Forestry Management surface, will constitute a factor in the extermination of the local Eurasian three-toed woodpecker population within the Nature 2000 area”. “The situation is similar for the white-backed woodpecker nesting primarily in forests with above average amounts of dead wood for foraging”.

Eurasian three-toed woodpecker. Photo: Patko Erika. CC-BY-SA 2.0

Eurasian three-toed woodpecker. Photo: Patko Erika. CC-BY-SA 2.0

 

The threat to the two woodpecker species populations is all the more worrying as the Białowieża Forest is the only forest in Europe inhabited by all the European woodpecker species as a result of the forest’s natural character and the large amount of old and dead trees. This is common knowledge for ornithologists throughout Europe, attracting them to our forest. This state of affairs might – unfortunately – soon undergo radical changes.

We wish to express our categorical protest against such imprudent decisions concerning the Białowieża Primeval Forest. We are not convinced by the argumentation put forward by the authors of the plan involving the large-scale cutting down of trees in the Białowieża Forest that this will be conducted in order to save the forest from damage caused by the European spruce bark beetle and forest fires. The Białowieża Forest belongs to the category of forests with a low fire danger level, while centuries of experience and scientific knowledge indicate that the development of the spruce bark beetle within spruce forests is a natural process and will be supressed naturally, irrespectively of human intervention consisting in ineffective sanitary logging. Such has been the case over the millions of years of the cohabitation of bark beetles and sylvan forest stands. In addition, up to 30% of the planned logging activities will be conducted on species of trees in no way associated with the bark beetle, therefore the beetle has nothing to do with the real goals behind such plans.

 

We must remember that

NATURE DOES NOT NEED HUMANS, HUMANS NEED NATURE

We regret that Greenmind Foundation’s competent and scientifically well-documented report, supported by recognized ecological organisations, has remained largely ignored within the superficial social consultation process (here). This fact only confirms the well-argued thesis developed within the report that the intense logging planned in the Białowieża Forestry Management cannot be justified by the need to “protect the forest” and “contain the grading of the spruce bark beetle”. Primarily, it shows that the stipulated “protection of the forest” in fact applies to the protection of forest stands in order to harness their economic potential within the frameworks of so-called sylviculture, and not the conservation of forest ecosystems shaped by natural processes as required in the case of the Białowieża Primeval Forest.

We would also like to recall the recent pledges made by Poland, presented by the Polish delegation headed by Minister Szyszko in Paris during the COP 21 Climate Change Summit. Minister Szyszko boasted of our carbon dioxide absorption programme (for compensating the high emissions resulting from a coal-based power industry) through mass forest planting and the thickening of existing forests. The intense cutting down of trees in the Białowieża Forests, including many old forest stands, will have precisely the opposite effect.

For all the above reasons, we appeal to the Minister of Environment Jan Szyszko to respect the will of the deceased President Lech Kaczyński and to support our common interest in saving an important element of our national heritage in the form of the Białowieża Primeval Forest. We appeal to Minister Szyszko not to approve either the Annex to the management plan prepared by the Białowieża Forestry Management for the years 2012 – 2021 endangering the Białowieża Forest or the Annex to the Environmental Impact Assessment Prognosis.

At the same time, we announce that we will support any democratic political and social actions which aim to protect our valuable Białowieża Forest from the saws of its plunderers.

The National Council of the Polish Green Party