Białowieża Forest District opens a major part of the previously closed area of the forest
Polish part of the Bialowieza Forest is divided into three forest districts (Bialowieza, Browsk and Hajnowka), which constitute three administrative units. On April 1, Bialowieza Forest District announced that it bans access to the forest. Violation of this ban was treated as an offence and fined. State Forests explained the ban by safety reasons and announced safety cuttings of dead trees along the roads. However, the cuttings changed into regular logging – even in places far from any routes. A big part of the local community, especially in Bialowieza, was alarmed. Bialowieza supports itself mainly from tourism and closing the forest at the peak of tourist season meant an economic disaster for the tour operators, guesthouses’ owners, etc. NGOs warned that the ban was to serve as a cover for intensive logging. In fact, much areas of the forest was cleared despite the birds’ breeding season.
Significantly on May 30, Bialowieza country borough declared at their meeting that all of the Bialowieza Forest should be made available for the local community as well as for the tourists. It was a historical moment when local authorities stood against the State Forests. It should be mentioned here that the State Forests lobby is extremely strong in the forest’s region and local authorities always support the foresters.
Yesterday, on June 14, Bialowieza Forest District announced reopening of a big part of its territory. You can see on the enlosed map the part without red stripes – this is the area that can be entered. The red stripes mark the territory of Hajnowka Forest District, which remains closed. It was in this district that harvesters were first blocked near the village of Czerlonka on May 24, which triggered introduction of the restrictive regulations. As a sign of disagreement and to show the common right to the forest, marches are organised every second Saturday. People bring banners, wear green ribbons (sign of solidarity with the forest) and walk in the closed area under the watch of forest guards that ask them for their IDs and note down their names. This Saturday another walk will take place at 11:00 a.m. The exact route is not made public yet for obvious reasons.