EU Commission decides to take Poland to court for failing to protect Bialowieza forest | WWF

EU Commission decides to take Poland to court for failing to protect Bialowieza forest

Posted on 13 July 2017    
The ancient trees in the Bialowieza Forest date back hundreds of years, some as far back to the reign of Polish King Władysław II Jagiełło in the 14th century.
© I. Chojnacki / WWF-Poland
WWF applauds today’s decision by the European Commission to take Poland to European Court of Justice because of the increased logging in the Bialowieza Forest in breach of EU law. The EU Commission also decided on interim measures which 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.”

Last week 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.

Bialowieza 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.
 
Bialowieza is not the only World Heritage site in danger in Central and Eastern Europe. Last month the first 100,000 signatures of people from around the world who share their concern for the future of Pirin National Park have been symbolically delivered to the office of the Prime Minister of Bulgaria Boyko Borissov by WWF and the other NGOs, part of the For the Nature coalition.
 
Pirin National Park in Bulgaria, which shelters possibly the oldest tree in the Balkan peninsula, could be added to UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger. WWF has been urging for immediate action to be taken against multiple threats to the mountain and launched an international petition in November 2016. A new draft management plan of Pirin National Park has been designed recently that allows construction on an area that is 12.5-times larger than currently and could lead to commercial logging affecting nearly 60 per cent of the park. The plan would jeopardize the pristine nature and ecosystem values of the northern park territories as well as its status as a UNESCO site. Government has to take actions.
The ancient trees in the Bialowieza Forest date back hundreds of years, some as far back to the reign of Polish King Władysław II Jagiełło in the 14th century.
© I. Chojnacki / WWF-Poland Enlarge
Illegal logging in Bialowieza forest
© Dariusz Gatkowski Enlarge

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