On July 12th, another protest took place in the vicinity of harvesters cutting down over 100-year-old forest stand in Browsk Forest District [division 302], in the UNESCO protection zone, where formally any commercial timber harvesting is banned. Harvesters were guarded by a few dozens of forest guards. After a few hours the machines left the Forest, escorted by the police and forest guards.
Forest guards from all over Poland arrived to guard the harvesters.
Scientists and Dutch journalists that came to the site called the Forest a ‘war zone.’
Forest guards more and more often use open violence towards activists in the Bialowieza Forest. On the other hand, however, they remain indifferent in situations when people operating the harvesters pose threat to life or health of the protestors.
A few days ago the activists turned up in Browsk Forest District, near a place where a meeting of Forest Guards was taking place. The guards had come to the Forest from all over Poland to keep an eye on the harvesters and ensure continuity of the logging. One of the workers of the Browsk Forest District stated that as an inhabitant of the Forest for many generations back he was against any outsiders, people from elsewhere, taking their stand for the protection of the Forest. Then, he tried to hurt one of the activists by hitting into him with his car and repeating ‘I will not let it happen.’ The forester was punished by the police for posing threat.
Activists from Dzika Polska and Camp for the Forest recorded harvesters at work a day after the UNESCO decision to stop logging in old-growth forest stands.
The works were conducted in Bialowieza Forest District and stopped only yesterday. It was the first time timber-harvesting machines were used in this forest district. Because of the annex from 2016 to the Forest Management Plan for Bialowieza Forest District (which set the huge number of 188,000 m3 of timber to be extracted only from this forest district until 2021), European Commission started proceedings concerning this forest district. The EC calls to halt logging in old-growth forest stands. Ecological NGOs regularly inform the EC about violation of Nature 2000 regulations. It is hoped that within the nearest days the EC will bring the case before the Tribunal and will apply provisional messures such as the absolute ban on logging in old-growth forests.
Recognized academics and rectors of most distinguished Polish universities – Warsaw University, Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Warsaw University of Technology and President of the Polish Academy of Sciences wrote an appeal to Polish government to stop the logging in the Bialowieza Forest – the best preserved natural forest in Europe.
‘Bialowieza Forest is a priceless national treasure and a symbol of Polish nature recognized worldwide,’ they said. They pointed at the huge effort on the part of Poland so that the Forest would be added to the UNESCO list. ‘Under no circumstances should the Bialowieza Forest be managed like an average wood,’ the professors emphasized. They also added that the current management can lead to irreverseable damage and that might take millenia to recover from. They also noted that the bark beetle outbreak is due to climat change and, finally, called for protection of the Forest, which constitutes only 3.4% of Polish woodlands. ‘Let nature decide,’ they wrote in the letter.
This is one more significant voice for the protection of the Forest that is being ignored. At the end of June 33 deans of Polish universities also addressed the government to stop logging, but with no result.
Even the UNESCO decision is being ignored and the logging goes on. We still need to show our support and fight for the Forest!
After the difficult and exhausting blockades in the Forest last week, the weekend was a time to take a break. On Saturday an educational walk to the Forest set off from Pogorzelce (near Bialowieza). The participants could learn more about natural forests, spruce bark beetle, natural processes etc. In the evening in nearby village of Teremiski a concert for the Forest took place and gathered quite a numerous group of people.
We are also happy that the news about the Forest and the wave of support spread wider and wider across Europe. This weekend a solidarity action took place in London. Also a mural for the Forest appeared in Amsterdam.
If you organise some action to support the Forest, do let us know. We will be glad to write about it here and inform others about what you are doing.
The blockade at Majdan, near Topiło – at the heart of the Forest – managed to keep itself for 3 days and nights. Today early in the morning it was broken by a numerous police group.
The situation at the blockade in Majdan, after some turmoil at the beginning, got stable and peaceful. Until today’s morning, when at 4 a.m. a big group of police came. They surrounded the activists, wrote down their identities and started cutting out the fence behind the activists’ backs.
Although the blockade came to an end, it was successful because the logging of the Forest was stopped for three days.
A question arises whether the UNESCO decision will stop the logging. The machines keep working in the Forest. The fight is certainly not over. Polish Prime Minister, Beata Szydło, declared that ‘there is no such decision (UNESCO on halting the logging). The information is untrue. The debate is postponed for the next year, exactly the way Poland put the case.’
It was a historical and symbolic moment of fight fot the Forest with 2 machines blocked at the same time here and UNESCO deciding on the future of this World Heriatge Site in Cracow. And even more so, because the activists were able to block the machines despite the national mobilization of the Forest Guards.
The Directorate of State Forests has ordered a nationwide Forest Guard mobilization to set up a group to protect harvesters from being blocked. With a lot of courage and determination the Huta Dahu’s activists, the Friends of the Earth Foundation, the Polish Wildlife Foundation, and people from Spain and the United States blocked the harvester’s work near Sorocza Nóżka near Hajnowka.
The situation on the 8th blockade got very difficult. The man behind the harvester’s wheel didn’t want to stop the machine, in spite of explanations and requests. He could have badly hurt the activists. Also the police and guards appeared at the site. They were openly agressive and used force. They also surrounded the activists on the harvester and prevented access of the media. One of the activists was brutally arrested. Finally, in the afternoon, on the news from Cracow the blockade came to an end.
The blokade near Topiło is continued – third day in a row!
Today activists are also checking if Szyszko is still logging despite of UNESCO decision.
We will let you know about this what is happening in the Forest in the afternoon.
The decision calls Poland to stop the logging immediately. It also points at overexploitation of the Forest by the government, which in turn harms its outstanding natural values. It states that the logging is against the EU’s law and that IUCN mission wil be sent to the Forest to report on its condition under the current management, which can result in adding the Forest to the World Heritage in Danger List.
UNESCO session is taking place – the Bialowieza Forest issue is being discussed today in Cracow.
Meanwhile, in the Forest, there are two blockades. One of them, the 7th one, lasts uniterruptedly since yesterday. The machines are blocked deep in the Forest and the activists are outside mobile phone range, so no streaming is possible.
The other one, the 8th one, has just started. Despite the presence of the activists that attached themselves to one of the machines, the works are not stopped. The situation seems dangerous at times. There is also police at the site.
The message of the blockades is clear: Our heritage not for sale!
The whole World is also with us. At the site of blockades there are people from Poland, Czech Republic, Spain, USA.
Also yesterday 13 MEPs sent a letter to commissioner Karmenu Vella to take Poland to Court of Justice and stop logging in Bialowieza forest.
On the 4th of July, a day before the UNESCO decision about the special IUCN mission being sent to the Bialowieza Forest to assess the stuation at the World Heritage Site that has been suffering from mass logging, a demonstration of support for the Forest took place in Cracow.
About a thousand people from all over Poland arrived to demand protection of our national and European natural legacy and to protest against Minister Szyszko’s policy that destroys the Forest. NGOs, representatives of the local community, famous artists and scientists called to stop the logging and protect the Forest as a national park.
Sadly, a counter-demonstration of foresters who represented the State Forests tried to drown the demonstration out by all kinds of noise.
The message, however, is clear. A big part of the society is deeply concerned by the situation in the Forest and they see no alternative but to stop the destruction and start protection.
Our heritage is not for sale! It’s priceless!
We have to preserve it for future generations!
To watch the demonstration, please, head to the video below.