UNESCO – message from the activists and Minister Szyszko’s ideas

On Wednesday morning a decision will be taken at the UNESCO session whether to send a special mission to the Forest to investigate into the situation here or not.

Meanwhile, despite the reinforced control of the forest guards the 7th blockade of the heavy timber-harvesting machines started in the Forest on Tuesday, July 4. You can read more about the blockade here. In spite of the presence of the forest guards also two remaining stayed at the parking space in case they could be blocked too.

The protesters that come form Poland (from Dzika Polska and Camp for the Forest), the Czech Republic and the USA (from Hnuti Duha and Friends of the Earth) wanted to send their message to UNESCO and to the World. They asked for reaction in the situation when regulations are being violated and a World Heritage Site – destroyed by harvesters that fell a few hundred trees every day.

The activists said:

  • ‘UNESCO, forests like this one are disappearing from the map of the world.  You can save this one. You are capable of doing it. Please, don’t hesitate.’ (Jeremy Fane, USA)
  • ‘UNESCO, we are doing our job here. Now we are waiting for you to do yours.’ (Tomasz Jabłoński, Poland)
  • ‘A big group of Czechs arrived especially for the protest to the Bialowieza Forest. We want to continue our support for the Forest as long as necessary. We believe that UNESCO will hasten Polish government to take the right decision concerning the Forest and that the logging will come to an end. Thus, the effort of so many people will not be in vain.’ (Jan Skalik, Hnuti Duha from the Czech Republic)
  • ‘It’s really sad that Minister Szyszko, similarly to some vandals from the Middle East, destroys a property inscribed on the World Heritage List, a place many countries can only envy us.’ (Adam Bohdan, Dzika Polska from Poland)

Follow the link to listen to the activists’ message to UNESCO Commission

At the same time when the activists were using their own bodies to prevent forest trees from being cut down, when a demonstrartion in Cracow was taking place, Minister Szyszko has started to look for allies that could help him postpone UNESCO’s decision of inscribing the Forest of World Heritage in Danger List. Why? He wants to kill the decision concerning the Bialowieza Forest prepared by scientists who are UNESCO experts. According to this decision one more IUCN mission should be sent to the Forest (the first one was in 2016) to check if the forest management poses threat to wildlife and if the Forest should be inscribed on the Heritge in Danger List.

The decision also calls to stop the logging in old-growth stands without any delay. It points out that Polish government uses logging also to extract healthy, uninfested trees. What is more, it states that the logging was started without any assessment of its impact on those values of the Forest that were crucial for its designation as the World Heritage Site. Finally, it urges the government to prepare a new management plan that would protect the UNESCO site.

However, Minister Szyszko’s team prepared amendments to the Draft Decision. Their aim is to postpone the decision and the mission until 2019. Till then the current logging plan will have been fulfilled.

The Minister wrote a letter that was circulated among the delegates. In the letter he encouraged them to open a discussion over the Draft Decision. The Minister also enclosed in the letter his invitation to the Forest for July 8. in order to clarify the situation obscured by NGOs – a situation harmful for the foresters and blind to the needs of the local community, as Paweł Mucha, Ministry of Environment spokesman explained.

According to NGOs this ad hoc action is to replace a discussion based on scientific data prepared by IUCN.

Fingers crossed for the UNESCO decision!


7th blockade in the Forest – our heritage is not for sale!

Parallel events with one goal in mind are happening now – UNESCO session and the 7th blockade of heavy machines in the Bialowieza Forest, because our heritage is World’s heritage and not for sale!

Today in the morning, near Topiło another blockade started. Activists used heavy barrels filled with concrete to make it impossible for the timber-harvesting machines to leave their parking lot in Majdan, near Topiło – a village at the heart of the Forest. The machines had been used for felling trees in over 100-year-old stands in the UNESCO area that should be excluded from any timber extraction.

People taking part in the blockade come from Poland (connected with Dzika Polska, Camp for the Forest), the Czech Republic and the USA.

Today a big demonstration is going to take place in Cracow at 4 p.m. If possible, be there! Let’s show our support for the Forest!

At the same time a counter-demonstration of foresters is going to be held. Very often the foresters themselves are not willing to participate but are delegated by the State Forests and have nothing to say. This is a part of State Forests’ propaganda. But if the voice of solidarity with the Forest is strong these days, we can do much. We can be heard.

Beginning of the 41. UNESCO session and a demo for the Forest – show your support!

Current events naturally have to do with the 41. UNESCO session taking place in Cracow.
Significantly, it is already known as a fact that the issue of the Bialowieza Forest will be discussed at the session, and on Wednesday morning the decision will be taken whether the special expert mission will be sent to the Forest. Hopefully, UNESCO will react against Minister Szyszko’s decisions (the logging) and rely on scientific knowledge.
On Sunday, July 2., first action for the Forest took place in Cracow. Representatives of the Camp for the Forest, which is the camp in one of the forest villages – a place to stay, learn about the situation and get involved, told about the camp, their protests and why the Forest should be protected.

Today, July 4., at 4 p.m. a demonstration of support for the idea of protection of the Bialowieza Forest is going to take place in Cracow.

Meanwhile, in the photos from the session (by Greenpeace), you can see a little but very telling trick.

Huge penalty charges for activists defending UNESCO World Heritage Site

There are quite a few difficulties activists defending the Bialowieza Forest have to face. Not only are these hardships of slowing the logging down by blockades and sacrifice they involve. Now, these are also very high penalty charges that add up to the list.

The State Forests’ unit responsible for transportation from Giżycko, which is in charge of the machines used for timber harvesting in the Forest, has employed a legal office to send letters with payment requests to all participants of the blockade from May 30th. What is more, people who get the request were often only visitng the site of blockade to show their support for the activists.
‘Let them be afraid. When they were doing their mischief, they weren’t frightened, and now they are?’ says the director of the unit.
The activists, however, don’t let anybody scare them away. They believe in the power of solidarity. They also started collecting money to employ a lawyer that would help them tackle the problem with penalty charges.
Donations would be very helpful. The Forest is our common legacy.

6th blockade finished. Solidarity goes on!

The 6th blockade of heavy machines, which took place in a remote part of the Forest near the border with Belarus and out of phone range, came to end yesterday afternoon. The weather was very stormy and windy, which made it dangerous to stay in the Forest. Also the timber-harvesting machine left the place, which means the blockade was successful and the activists managed to save many trees.

‘It is scandalous that while representatives from countries all over the world are getting ready for the UNESCO session in Cracow, where also the case of Bialowieza Forest will be discussed, Minister Szyszko uses heavy machines to cut down the most valuable part of a World Heritage Site, ‘ says Anna Błachno, one of the activists taking part in the blockade.

The 41. UNESCO session starts in Cracow this Sunday (July 2). Solidarity actions are going to be held in Cracow and in other places. We can always support Bialowieza Forest, even from different parts of the globe. Help the Forest, save Bialowieza!

Photos courtesy of Małgosia Klemens. Thank you!

6th blockade of heavy machines and escalation of events

The situation is in the Bialowieza Forest building up. Activists from all over Poland are arriving to the forest. The same about forest guards, as the general director of State Forests (Lasy Panstwowe), Konrad Tomaszewski, issued a decision according to which each of the regional forest management bodies (there are 17 of them in Poland) has to send 3 people to the Bialowieza Forest to support local forest guards. They are to create reinforced intervention teams that will work in two shitfs daily from Monday to Saturday. The teams will be activated during the UNESCO summit. They are to guard the harvesting machines so that they could keep working. They will also watch the Forest, so that nobody breaks the access ban and enters the Forest, where destruction is taking place at an incredible speed.

Meanwhile, the 6th blockade of heavy machines started deep in the forest today. Once again activists with their bodies and risking further legal consequences try to stop the destruction of priceless ecosystem. They were not dicouraged by heavy storms that were passing here today, nor by the fact that legal procedures were started againts many activists or just their supporters. In the current days more and more people are getting letters from the prosecutors, informing them about charges. Some persons were charged with over 10,000 PLN fines. The money should be paid in 7 days’ time or their cases will be taken to court. The fines were calculated according to potential loss of the State Forests (one of the richest state owned companies that manages a third part of our country) due to machine blockades. However, the people who received the fines, did not take active part in any of the blockades. They just appeared on the site and showed solidarity by being there and greeting the activits.

Once again, the blockade attracted attention of the media. Swiss TV was present there.

This weekend UNESCO Summit starts in Kraków. Let’s show our solidarity! Get involved!

Interrogations and legal procedures against activistists

First interrogations of activists have started

On June 26, Adam Bohdan from Dzika Polska was interrogated by the police. During one of the peaceful demonstrations connected with blockades of heavy timber-harvesting machines, Bohdan was detached from the machine by the police and then drawn by force to the police car where he spent over on hour. Now he is accussed of disturbing public order by blocking the machines, which outraged workers of State Forests and inhabitants of Czerlonka, a village where the blockade took place.

The activist was charged with breaking the regulations according to which disturbing peace and order by noise and shocking others by scandalous behaviour is subject to detention, imprisonment or financial penalty.

Bohdan did not plead guilty and claimed that his actions stemmed from the state of necessity. He only wanted the current law to be obeyed. To make it happen, logging should be stopped in old-growth forest stands, which is in line with Nature 2000, forest management plans and UNESCO documents. He added that legal proceedings of the European Commission confirm the fact of law being violated. The activist also pointed out that it was the first time such heavy and invasive machines were used in the Forest and that the destruction was conducted at tincredible pace of 15,000 m3 cut within four months and that the changes in over-one-hundred-year-old forest stands are irreversible.

On June 27, Gazeta Wyborcza wrote about 17 activists in total who had been charged for disturbing public order. The police in Hajnówka brought their cases to the regional court of justice. The activists can be sentenced to financial penalty, detention or prison. There are 37 more activists whose cases are still being investigated by the police. Police headquarters in Hajnówka also got two notifications of tresspassing and forcing to a particular behaviour during the blockades in Czerlonka and Postołowo. The police is trying to determine whether crimes were committed or not.

Letter from local inhabitants to UNESCO delegates

A letter to UNESCO delegates and other foreign ambassadors in Poland was written and circulated by a group of local inhabitants. The letter represents the standpoint of the growing part of the local community that disagrees with the logging and suffers from it, also for economic reasons.

The letter is a response to Minister Szyszko’s call on the ambassadors and his persuasion that Bialowieza Forest should be crossed out from UNESCO Natural Heritage List.

During Minister and ambassadors’ visit to Bialowieza (June, 22) no party expressing a different opinion than the one of the Ministry of Environment was given the floor to speak and present the statements contained in the letter. The visit was kept secret until the very last moment and no open discussion bearing on the merits of the situation in the Forest was held.


Białowieża, June 21st, 2017


Honourable Ambassadors,


We are addressing you as the representatives of the local community of the Białowieża Forest region to bring your attention to the negative processes taking place there.

This last piece of primeval European lowland forest and UNESCO World Heritage Site is under the threat of destruction. The State Forests have been conducting heavy logging in its area. Moreover, they have banned public access to two out of three forest districts.

We would like to point out that a continuously growing part of the local community strongly disagrees with the existing situation. The mass logging and fully artificial regeneration of the forest has devastating consequences for the landscape. It also drastically decreases biodiversity and inhibits natural processes. It should be highlighted that the cuttings were to be conducted only for sanitary and safety reasons, and solely along roads and tourist routes. Regrettably, they turned into a regular commercial logging, also in over hundred years old forest stands.

In view of the above, we are deeply worried that the UNESCO World Heritage site will soon suffer irredeemable damage. We are also concerned by the fact that voices of respected scientists and the scope of their research have been constantly disregarded by the Polish Ministry of Environment. The ministry claims (against scientific knowledge) that the forest was planted by men and cannot survive without human intervention. In fact, such standpoint appears to be a justification of the escalating devastation of the last remnants of the natural forest under the State Forests’ administration.

We strongly believe that natural ecosystems constitute an especially valuable part of not only Polish but European legacy. It is our responsibility to preserve wilderness for future generations. Therefore, we want to ask you for your support of the Bialowieza Forest conservation and for joining our call to stop the destructive logging.


Yours faithfully,

on behalf of concerned local citizens:

Joanna Łapińska

Arkadiusz Smyk

Katarzyna Androsiuk

Agata Smoktunowicz

Halina and Wiktor Kabac

Agnieszka and Mirosław Jakoniuk

Nela Szuka

Marcelina and Grzegorz Zimny



March for the Forest in Warsaw

On Saturday, June the 24th, March for the Forest was organized in Warsaw. It gathered together about 5000 people and was the biggest march of solidarity with Bialowieza so far. People arrived from different places around Poland. They brought banners expressing their voices for keeping the wilderness, preserving biodiversity, leaving the Forest untouched and protected over the entire area as a national park. Many banners were signs of open protest targeted directly against Minister Szyszko and his devastating decisions and actions in the Forest.
It should be remembered that for people in Poland the Bialowieza Forest is a part of their national identity, something that everybody knows about and perceives as a symbol of Polish nature.

It was also yesterday that OKO.press – Polish independent news service, published results of a poll in which they asked who represents interests of the Bialowieza Forest in a better way: activists protesting against the logging or the State Forests.
1.5 times more Polish people expressed their support for the activists than for the State Forests that put into action the controversial policy of Minister Szyszko in which he uses police against the activists.
More and more Polish people cease to believe in Minister’s persuasions that the Forest can be healed by cutting it down and replanting it by foresters. However, PiS – the conservative party in rule – and its electorate support Minister Szyszko and spread the language of hatred across the media, calling not only activists, ecologists but also nature-lovers ‘ecoterrorists’ and enemies of the state.

5th blockade of heavy timber-harvesting machines

Once again activists blocked heavy machines logging the Bialowieza Forest

Over 20 Greenpeace and Dzika Polska activists once again blocked heavy machines for mass timber harvesting in the Bialowieza Forest. Recently, the machines have been felling trees in UNESCO conservation zones in Browsk Forest District (one of the 3 forest districts). The protest’s goal is to attract attention to the visit to the forest of UNESCO countries’ representatives (22 June 2017). The meeting had been kept secret and no NGOs or scientists opposing Minister Jan Szyszko decisions were invited.

Activists blocked a huge machine with their own bodies and spread out banners saying: „Stop the logging” and „National Park over the entire Forest.”

‘Minister Szyszko pushes the limits of reasonable thinking. It is incredible that two weeks before UNESCO summit, which Poland is going to be the host of, Minister Szyszko in such a determined way tries to lower the forest’s prestige and to ridicule Poland. Not only does he let harvesting machines devastate the forest, but also he keeps telling nonsense about its unlawful inscibing onto the UNESCO World Heritage List,’ said Katarzyna Jagiełło from Greenpeace. ‘He also started pressing his buttons: representatives of different countries from the UNESCO Committee were brought to Bialowieza. What is quite typical of the minister, no NGOs or scientists were invited. They would have been able to show what the real devastation of the Bialowieza Forest with heavy equipment is – also in the UNESCO zones.’

‘Minister Szyszko tries hard to undermine the value of the forest as the world heritage – we cannot let it happen. That is why we go on with the blockades of heavy machines. In iswith the minister’s consent that the forest is being  logged also in the protected areas, which means that the most precious, UNESCO conservation parts of the forest are disappearing,’ said Adam Bohdan from Dzika Polska.

Results of forest patrols by Greenpeace and Dzika Polska unanimously show that this year’s felling is taking place in the old, invaluable parts of the forest that until present were not subject to logging, among others, the UNESCO zones. According to data from the three forest districts, about 40% of the logging was conducted in those areas of the forest that in line with Polish obligations towards UNESCO should be excluded from logging. Tree felling in those areas has not stopped until now, despite the fact that at the beginning of June UNESCO experts expressed their concern about the situation in the forest in a draft document prepared for the UNESCO summit in July. They also made a request to start the formal procedure that would help find out whether Poland should not be inscribed on the UNESCO Word Heritage is Danger List. The document prepared by experts will be discussed during the 41. Session of the World Heritage Committee the beginning of July in Cracow.

The 5th blockade was taking place in the UNESCO protected areas. Peaceful protests in the Bialowieza Forest began at the end of May. Since then many concerts, civil actions,e.g. walks to the forest to break the entry ban, solidarity manifestations have been held. They have one common message: national park over the entire forest!

The blockade finished in the evening of the next day. Activists spent the night in the forest. They were not discouraged by heavy rain and cold. Also no force was used against them this time, however, their identity was checked and names written downby forest guards. Activists managed to save many trees from being cut, to attract attention to the situation in the forest and to protest against the destructive policy of the Ministry of Environment.