Wildlife charity backs EU court case against Poland for failing to protect forest

A decaying log in the Białowieża oldgrowth reserve. The orange mushroom (Laetiporus sulphureus) in front is edible and known as "chicken of the woods". (c) Frank Vassen, via Flckr.
Białowieża Forest is the best preserved forest ecosystem and the best preserved old-growth lowland forest in Europe. But it is under threat, reports BRENDAN MONTAGUE
We urge Poland to respect its legal obligation and stop damaging activity

The wildlife charity WWF today applauded a decision by the European Commission to take Poland to the European Court of Justice because of the increased logging in Bialowieza Forest in breach of EU law. 


The EU Commission has also decided on interim measures that will stop the wood extraction until the court’s judgement, preventing further destruction of Bialowieza’s natural resources.


This decision comes more than one year after an official complaint submitted by WWF and seven Polish and international NGOs to the European Commission warning that the Polish plan to triple logging in the protected old-growth forest was in breach of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives.


The ancient Bialowieza Forest is protected by EU law and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Despite reiterated warnings by the European Commission and the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, the extensive logging is taking place, including old-growth forest stands. 


Dariusz Gatkowski, biodiversity policy specialist at WWF Poland said: “The Commission needs now 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. 


“It is shocking that, despite the unique natural value of the Bialowieza Forest and the several levels of  EU and UNESCO protections, the Polish Ministry of the Environment decided to allow increased logging in the area. 


“We urge the government to respect its legal obligation and immediately stop any damaging activity in the forest, and to ensure its future protection.” 


This month the UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting in Krakow reiterated their concern about the running commercial logging damaging the Bialowieza Forest and urged Poland to immediately halt wood extraction in the old-growth forests.


Białowieża Forest is the best preserved forest ecosystem and the best preserved old-growth lowland forest in Europe. It is home to Europe’s largest bison population.


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Brendan Montague is the contributing editor to The Ecologist and can be found on twitter at @EcoMontague



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