Earth Island Institute logo, tap or click to visit the Institute home page

Go Back: Home > Earth Island Journal > Latest News > Post and Comments

Latest News

EU Calls for Immediate Logging Ban in Europe’s Last Primeval Forest

Last year Polish government tripled logging operations at Białowieża forest, a UNESCO world heritage site

By Arthur Neslen

Europe’s last major parcel of primeval woodland could be set for a reprieve after the EU asked the European court to authorize an immediate ban on logging in Poland’s Białowieża forest. (Read more about how logging has decimated the forest.)

photo of Bialowieza Forest Photo courtesy of Greenpeace Poland Logs cut and ready for removal from Poland's Białowieża forest. The EU has called for an immediate ban on logging at the world heritage site.

Around 80,000 cubic meters of forest have been cleared since the Polish government tripled logging operations around the UNESCO world heritage site last year.

The European commission said that it had acted because the increased logging of trees over a century-old “poses a major threat to the integrity of this ... site.”

EU environment commissioner, Karmenu Vella told The Guardian: “We have asked that Polish authorities cease and desist operations immediately. These actions are clear, practical steps that the European commission has taken to protect one of the last remaining primeval forests in Europe.”

Environmentalists applauded the move, with WWF Poland’s Dariusz Gatkowski calling for the commission “to quickly implement today’s positive decision and take Poland to court, fulfilling its role as guardian of Europe’s natural heritage and the laws that protect it.”

Agata Szafraniuk of the ClientEarth legal firm, said: “Decisive and immediate action is the only way to avoid irreversible damage to this ancient forest. We hope that the court of justice will impose the ban on logging, as a matter of urgency, before breaking for the summer holiday, which starts on July 21st.”

Last week, UNESCO threatened to put Białowieża on its list of world heritage sites in danger unless Poland halted the deforestation, which has felled 30,000 cubic meters of coppice in just the first four months of 2017.

But quick compliance from the Polish government is thought unlikely, after the country’s environment ministry tweeted that it was “delighted” at the prospect of a court case yesterday. A second tweet said: “We have hard data on the #Buszowska (Białowieża) forest and we will be pleased to present it before the tribunal.”

Last month, Poland’s environment minister, Jan Szyszko, called for the site to be stripped of its Unesco status, despite fears of a collapse in its biodiversity, which includes wolves, lynx and Europe’s largest bison population.

The Polish government argues that increased tree fells are needed to contain a bark beetle outbreak in Białowieża, although the science behind its case has been denounced by many of the world’s environmental scientists.

Campaigners trying to block the Białowieża logging say that armed foresters in camouflage units are now routinely stopping and searching young people in the area after a spate of lock-ins around tree-clearing machines.

Ariel Brunner, the senior policy chief for BirdLife Europe said: “The tragedy of Białowieża is more than just the devastation of nature, it is the spine-chilling destruction of memory and an affront to democracy and legality. In taking a clear and strong stance on the ecological destruction of Białowieża, the European commission has today shown its ‘heart of oak.’”

The Guardian
The Guardian UK, one of Britain's top daily newspapers, provides coverage of international environmental issues. Earth Island Journal is a member of the Guardian's Environment News Network.

Email this post to a friend.

Write to the editor about this post.

Subscribe Today
cover thumbnail EIJ cover thumbnail EIJ cover thumbnail EIJ cover thumbnail EIJFour issues of the award-winning
Earth Island Journal for only $10

 

Comments

Leave a comment

Comments Policy

Remember my personal information?

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

View Posts by Date View Posts by Author

Subscribe
Today

Four issues for just
$15 a year.

cover thumbnail EIJ

Join Now!

 

0.1114