Yesterday in the morning activists managed to block harvesters logging in the Bialowieza Forest District, where timber extraction limit has already been exceeded, and where any work has been banned by the European Court of Justice. Trees over 100 years old were being cut down.
The State Forests explain that all the works are justified by safety reasons – be it case of an accident or a fire. However, this year’s summer has been rainy and humid, and the possibility of a fire is much lower than previous years, when the forest suffered from severe droughts. Moreover, the trees were and each day still are felled far away from roads and tourist routes. Yesterday they were cut down in the distance of 80 metres from the road, whereas the hight of trees hardly ever reaches 50 metres. Moreover, cutting down and selling of trees is not necessary to ensure public safety along trails and roads. In the woodland district of Bialowieza – where restrictions on logging have been breached and this on territories of high natural importance [hundred year old trees, protected habitats] trees which are at risk of breaking or falling should be cut down and left in place to decompose naturally. This is how the foresters work along the Białowieża – Hajnówka section which is close to a highway. This is also how risk was managed as a result of the poor condition of 200 year old trees in other parts of Bialowieza Forest.
After almost 9 hours of blocking the machines, the blockade came to end in the evening. Activists managed to save many trees and once again voice the protest againts illegal logging.
Yesterday at a press conferene minister Jan Szyszko said that Poland would answer to European Commission’s allegations. However, what has been going on in the Forest is just and only active protection of forest habitats protected by Natura 2000.
‘We are truly grateful for the devotion of the EC and European Court of Justice to the Białowieża Forest issue,’ said the minister. However, he also regretted that the Court’s decision reached media first (and the left-wing ones), and not the Ministry itself. Once again the minister refered to the cataloguing and data collection that had taken place in the Forest and on the basis of which an experiment had been started. The experiment is to show the results of ‘active protection’ compared to its lack. The aim is to show who is right and who is to blame – what people and organizations – for what has been happening in the Forest.
‘Poland can boast with unique biodiversity. Our natural resources can serve as a model to the whole world. And all this was possible thanks to Polish mind-set.’ The minister also stated elsewhere that there are about 1.3 million infected spruces in the Forest and that everything should be done to remove them this year.
According to minister’s mind-set harvesters heal the Forest, therefore, in an unprecedented way, Poland breaks EC’s emergency ban and the logging goes on as before.
Also yesterday, to show the fact that the logging is being carried out without a stop, another blockade of harvesters took place in Browsk Forest District, near the village of Świnoroje. Despite the numerous troop of forest guards, the activists managed to block the machines for a few hours.
‘We are not going to give up our fight,’ activists say.
(photo by Małgosia Klemens)
On Saturday, July 29, a television crew from a major Polish TV channel was attacked by the loggers in the Białowieza Forest. The cameraman suffered some injuries, his camera was smashed and memory cards seized. The two loggers also tried to run over the journalist.
It was only the previous day, Friday July 28, that the European Court of Justice ordered an immediate suspension of the logging in Bialowieza, which is also protected under EU law.
Police said they detained two male suspects, aged 22 and 47, hours after the attack on Saturday.
The level of violence towards activists and journalists is growing despite the fact of the logging being illegal.
European Court of Justice bans logging in the Bialowieza Forest – saws and harvesters have to stop their work immediately. It means that according to the Court of Justice the increased logging can cause serious and irreparable damage to this priceless piece of nature.
European Court of Justice calls Polish government for immediate suspension of logging in the Bialowieza Forest. It means that not only is Minister Szyszko’s decision from March 2016 that allowed increased timber extraction in Bialowieza Forest District suspended, but also no old, dead trees all over the forest can be cut down. The ban on felling trees necessary for preservation of forest habitats and species is in force until the European Court of Justice resolves the case of the Bialowieza Forest.
To stop the logging the European Court of Justice adopted interim measures, which are granted by the Court in exceptionally urgent and serious cases that have to be decided upon with immediate effect. These measures are used very rarely and only when there is a threat of considerable and irreversible damage.
Coalition of non-governmental organizations (ClientEarth Prawnicy dla Ziemi, Dzika Polska, Greenpeace, Greenmind, OTOP, Pracownia na rzecz Wszystkich Istot, WWF) expects from the Polish government immediate implementation of the Court’s decision and suspension of the logging that has been taking place with unparalled intensity, causing more and more damage.
The decision of the Court confirms what the European Commission, UNESCO and majority of scientists emphasized before – it is the increased logging and not the spruce bark beetle that threatens protected forest habitats ad species, therefore the logging should come to an end before the devastation becomes irreparable.
At the same time, in the Forest protests of activists that come from all over the world are still taking place in order to stop the timber harvesting machines on the spot. The participants alarm that forest guards who were sent to the Forest from all over Poland to protect harvesters are becoming increasingly violent and often pose a threat to health and lives of the protesters.
(photo Adam Wajrak – thank you!)
Not only has the logging been going on as before, as if no regulations or decisions have been taken, but also the informal group of National Hajnówka wants to get involved against activists.
The movement is connected with National Radical Camp – Polish extreme-right movement. They published a call on their fb feed in which they always use the word “terrorists” as referring to activists. They claim that the activists invade houses and destroy crops, and make forest works more difficult. Therefore, they want to patrol the Forest and block activists’ actions to ‘protect local inhabitants.’ They see it as their patriotic duty. In fact, our heritage is cut down, carried out of the region and sold for the benefit of the State Forests, whereas the rest of the society remains with no profit. Moreover, foresters are one of groups that has the best employment conditions in Poland. Recently, their salaries have been raised again.
Never has the Forest been ‘actively protected’ by harvesters and also never at the present pace.