Minister Szyszko and UNESCO representatives in Bialowieza

On June 22, 2017 Minister of Environment, Jan Szyszko visited Bialowieza. He was accompanied by representatives of countries that belong to the UNESCO Committee.

‘We want the Bialowieza Forest to serve for the whole world as a model in terms of economy and reasonable management of resources, so that that those resources could exist,’ said the minister in a contradictory way. Such is the idea of his policy: to help the forest by cutting it down.

Minister Szyszko also said that this year the Ministry of Environment with State Forests had started a special programme based on the idea that ‘one third of the manager area of the the forest remains untouched by the human hand. Two thirds of this managed area are intended for regeneration of natural systems where – according to EU’s regulations, defendind the EU’s regulations – we will try to revive what has started to disappear.’

It has to be remembered that the whole area of the forest is UNESCO World Heritige Site and that old-growth forest stands extend far beyond the national park and the reserves. ‘Regeneration’ taking place has three stages: logging, ploughing, planting and has nothing to do with a natural forest.

The minister continued, giving a somewhat strange alternative of supporting either his policy or… his policy:

‘You can choose whose side to take; the protected 17,000 ha – which will be monitored in terms of succeeding changes and occuring species – or the other one, where in line with the EU’s law and by means of ecological engineering we will be restoring those habitats that have been destroyed.’ He also added that ‘these habitats will serve people and remain in excellent shape.’

Asked about a possibility of a dialogue, Minister Szyszko recommended referring to State Forests’ or the Ministry of Environment website where specific questions could be asked. Only after this kind of referrence can a dialogue be possible, he remarked.

Finally, asked whether Poland would apply for the change of Bialowieza Forest status, he replied that undoubtedly yes.

Bialowieza Forest on the UNESCO list illegally, says Minister Szyszko

Today in the Polish Parliament the Minister of Environment said that the fact of inscribing the Bialowieza Forest on UNESCO World Natural Heritage List had been againts the law. In fact it was violation of the law. According to the Minister, the forest should have been inscribed on the Nature and Culture Heritage List, as it was shaped by the human hand. Saying that the forest is natural is, as the minister claims, not true.
He also added that the case is being prosecuted.

The minister argues that the expectations towards protection of the forest are contradictory. On the one hand, forest stands should be protected. On the other hand however, UNESCO regulations state that as untouched by human hand, forest should not be exploited by people. So, one has to choose an option, the minister claims. You can either stand for UNESCO or obey EU’s regulations, meaning: revive ‘destroyed’ forest stands.

He also added that economic calculations are being conducted. Their aim is to assess the costs of losing the forest stands and comparing it to the costs of reviving them. What is also being analised is the emission and removal of CO2 by the forest – this in context of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change, which he also undermines.

The minister also reminded that the Forest had undergone cataloguing that cost 5 mln PLN. Specialists (ornithologists, entomologists, phytosociologists) catalogued over 1000 species and mapped their occurrence. Also the Bialowieza national Park is being monitored. He also ensured that nothing is being done in the ‘reference zone’ (17,000 ha). On the remaining area (34,000 ha) they ‘have started improvements.’

Featured photo courtesy of Adam Wajrak

Minister of Environment, bark beetle and ideology

Polish Minister of Environment: ‘The Bialowieza Forest is a flagship of left-wing liberine movement.’ Spruce bark beetle fueling the hostility towards Europe.

‘The Bialowieza Forest is a kind of a flagship of the left-wing libertine movement of the whole Western Europe which claims that man is the biggest enemy of nature’s resources and that the ultimate form of protection is ”do not fell trees”.’

These are the words of Jan Szyszko, Polish Minister of Environment, from June 17, from the congress of ‘Gazeta Polska,’ a right-wing newspaper.

Difficult though it is to make out the sense of this statement (what movements? why enemies?), one thing is quite certain – the significant function of these words. Protests against the logging are not perceived as rational and based on scientific data, but rather as purely ‘ideological.’ What is more, pushing this ideology towards the left-wing and libertine side, so, the evil one according to the current authorities, lets the emotions win over logical thinking. Thus, Szyszko’s words fit in the general anti-European rhetorics of the Polish government.

The context is obvious – the ongoing protest against the logging of the Bialowieza Forest that started on May 24. Also the European Commission’s call to stop the logging immediately. Finally, the possibility of inscribing the forest onto the UNESCO List of World Heritage in Danger.

As a consequence of Minister Szyszko’s ‘ideologically’ based approach, no protests of activists, no voices of Polish or foreign scientists, not even those of artists and intellectuals are taken into consideration. Even the opposition voiced their astonishment at cutting down the national legacy in order to fight the Shadow Cabinet rather than the spruce bark beetle.

What is more, the participants of the International Conference on Forests in Neuschönau, Germany, wrote to the Minister about the new research results which show that felling trees and removing dead wood have calamitous consequences for biodiversity and pose threat to natural forests.

Polish scientists have also been objecting to logging as a remedy for the spruce bark beetle’s outbreak.

‘There are no reliable scientific arguments for the efficiency of logging in such conditions like the ones in the Bialowieza Forest. Therefore, supporters of this method have nothing to refer to.’

After Robert Jurszo,, 19.06.2017

Professor Schroeder about spruce bark beetle

Professor Martin Schroeder from the Swedish Agrigultural University in Uppsala, who is considered to be one of the best European specialists on the spruce bark beetle, has given an interview for the Science & Scholarship in Poland website.,414617,ekspert-trudno-zakonczyc-gradacje-kornika-za-pomoca-ciec-sanitarnych.html

In the interview he emphasizes the fact that bark beetles’ outbreaks are a part of natural processes, yet, as woodlands in Europe have been greatly transformed, there is not much scientific data on this subject. It is known, however, that extreme weather conditions (e.g. draughts, high temperatures etc.) can enhance outbreaks. He aslo states that as spruce was less numerous in natural forests than in the man-planted ones, these outbreaks must have been less frequent.

Professor questions the effectiveness of felling and removing the infected trees in order to get rid of the insect from the forest. Firstly, all infected trees would have to be removed when the insect is in the larvae stage. The mature beetles fall off with the peeling bark and remain in the forest. Therefore, the time to dispose of the infected trees is quite short.

Secondly, spruce bark beetles develop a few generations and are on search of new trees through most of the summer. Besides, the groups of still green and live trees can be very small and, as such, more difficult to find.

The above mentioned reasons speak against sanitary cuttings.

What is more, when the bark beetle’s outbreak takes place on both protected and manager areas such mosaic sanitary cuttings are totally and even more inefficient.

Proffesor also mentions that felling old dead spruce trees that had been already left by the bark beetles should not take place. There are many species closely connected with dead wood, some of them are even natural enemies of bark beetles.

Finally, Professor was asked about existance of a method of fighting the bark beetle but without harming the biodiversity. Unfortunately, he replies, sanitary cuttings can only be conducted during summer, which leads to loss of many unique organisms. Therefore, if the ultimate goal is conservation of natural processes and of bioderversity, refraining from any kind of human intervention into nature can by no means be the best solution.

Marching together for the Forest

The weekend is coming to an end, which also means the end of the Weekend for the Forest.

The series of events in Białowieża that lasted from June 15th to 18th proved to be very interesting and successful. Much more people than initially expected arrived from all over Poland to support the idea of protection of the Białowieża Forest. They attended meetings, lectures, films and concerts. The most important part, however, was the March for the Forest. It was a magnificent act of solidarity with about 800 people breaking the ban imposed by the State Forests to hide the logging from publicity. Even heavy rain did not discourage the participants who walked in the forest to show their right to this piece of wilderness and their will to keep it wild. They protested against Minister of Environment policy according to which logging in the forest was increased threefold, which causes irreversible damage at a very fast pace.

Part of Białowieża Forest District opened again

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.

4th blockade of harvesters

Once again timber harvesting machines have been blocked by Polish, Czech and Romanian activists who stood up to defend the forest together

Activists from Greenpeace, Dzika Polska and a group of people from Romania and the Czech Republic blocked heavy tree felling machines that have been operating in valuable and old parts of the Bialowieza Forest. They spread out banners with slogans in Polish, English and Czech calling to stop the logging.

The logging in the forest is an appalling issue not only for people in Poland but also all over the world. That is why early in the morning in Hajnówka forest district, near Postołowo village, a group of Romanian and Czech protesters joined the Greenpeace and Dzika Polska activists. They wanted to show that the forest is utterly unique – it is the only European lowland forest on the UNESCO World Heritage list. As such, it deserves special protection and the whole of it should become a national park.

Despite the police intervention during the blockade last Thursday, we do not give up. There are more and more people who stand up for the forest. Our demand is to stop the logging of the most valuable woodland in Poland. Once again we block the machines that make the forest disappear before our very eyes, said Katarzyna Jagiełło, Greenpeace Poland. It is scandolous that two weeks before the UNECO summit in Poland its host, which is the Ministry of Environment, permits mass devastation of the only nature UNESCO Heritage Site in Poland, she adds.

Bialowieza Forest is the last lowland forest on the European continent – our common heritage. I just can’t believe that it is being destroyed. I have many friends in Poland and I have visited the forest many times. I was enchanted by its beauty. I’ve been actively taking part in narture protection actions in the Czech Republic, for example, in the blockade of tree felling in Szumawa National Park, where we were supported by many people from Poland. I’m happy I can show my gratitude now, supporting nature conservation in Poland. We were successful in Szumawa and the national park there is now visited by thousands of tourists each year. This in turn helps the local community suport themselves. We hope the same thing will become true for the Bialowieza Forest, said Jaromir Blaha, a Czech participant of the blockade.

– It’ s a shame that people from abroad have to defend the World Heritage Site from the Polish Minister of Environment, who finds profits from timber industry more important than preservation of natural forests and protection of natural processes, said Adam Bohdan from Dzika Polska Foundation.

Heavy timber harvesting machines have been felling trees in over century-old forest stands and in UNESCO protection zones, where the preservation of natural processes should be the priority. On the contrary, what is happening in the forest are works dealing with removal of dead spruce trees which, according to European Commission, should be left in the forest to ensure continuity of natural processes. Moreover, the works are conducted less than three weeks prior to the meeting with UNESCO Committee in Cracow, which will be hosted by the Ministry of Environment.

It is the fourth blockade of heavy tree felling machines in the forest conducted by Greenpeace and Dzika Polska activists. Two of the previous ones – on May 24 and 30 – ended up after the information about withdrawal of the machines had been confirmed. The third one – on June 8 – was terminated by police intervention.

Marianna Hoszowska,, +48 664 066 372
Adam Bohdan, Dzika Polska,, +48 532 284 313