Tuesday, 23 November 2010


( The Suwalki xSalvationx Komitern)

I still remember the first time I went there. I was an
eight year old boy and the big forest kind of frightened me. Being born in so called Green Lungs of Poland (North Poland) I was used to all kinds of forests but the one in Bialowieza seemed amazingly
big and unknown. Even nowadays, whenever I have a
chance to go there I can't resist the feeling of being
lost in a magical shadow of trees older than anything I
have ever had contact with. There is something addictive in its majesty that makes me feel like an orphan every time I have to leave the forest and there is nothing I can compare this to.

Situated on the border between Poland and Belarus,
the Bialowieza Forest complex (1506km2) is a relic of
lowland European forests that once extended across the
continent. It is a place in which the last fragments
of primeval temperate old growth forest have survived.
It is home to many species extinct elsewhere (among
others - European bison, the largest terrestrial
mammal living on this continent) and one of very few
places where evolution has not ceased. The stands
of primeval characters are a sort of unparalleled
living museum, offering us a window into the past,
through which we can still observe how forests
ecosystems functioned without human interference.

Diversity of life in Bialowieza Forest is
exceptionally high, so far about 3 000 species of
fungi, 1 000 species of vascular plants, 250 species
of mosses, and 350 species of lichens have been
recorded. Fauna of the forest is equally rich,
composed of ca 10 000 species, 85% of them insects.
New species are constantly being discovered and
described. Richness of avifauna - over 250 species
recorded, approximately 180 of them breeding, makes it
a place of global importance for bird conservation
(BirdLife International criteria). Bialowieza Forest
is also the only place where the full community of
European forest ungulates still exists. Diversity of the
Predatory community is unusual too. Over 30
co-occurring species of carnivorous mammals and birds
of prey make it one of the richest such assemblages in
Europe. What's more important, this predator community
coexists with their prey.

The trees are rich in beauty and reach an impressive height -
Norway spruce - 55 m, Scotch pines, small-leaved limes
- 42-45 m) and circumference (oaks - 720 cm, limes -
600 cm). Surviving old-growth, muliti-species,
multi-storey, uneven-aged stands of natural origin
preserve features of ancient European woods, of vast
forests which once covered the whole lowlands of
temperate Europe. Having with all this in mind it becomes
almost impossible for someone who is not familiar with the
polish environmental policy to imagine how endangered
such precious areas are.

Since the XVI century till World War I the
Forest had been protected as hunting grounds for royal
families. After the Second World War, the forest was
split between Poland (45% of area) and Belarus.
In the Belarussian part timber extraction was less
important, and a few years ago that whole area of
was declared a national park.

On the other hand, in the Polish part, except of Bialowieza with the
National Park covering only 8% of the area, the commercial
cuttings have been continued. In nearly 80
years of exploitation, timber extraction has had the most
dramatic effect on the Forest. During that time the
majority of primeval stands were removed and replaced
by even-aged, mostly coniferous plantations, and share
of old-growth stands of natural origin has dropped to
a mere 20%. In spite of some recent restrictions this
removal of remnants of primeval stands is still going on. If
we are unable to stop this process, all stands of
natural origin will be gone in the coming years, and
the last European primeval forest will be only

Since almost ten years we have been
campaigning to set a ban on cutting old stands and
enlargement of the Bialowieza National Park so to
protect the whole forest complex, but till now with only
limited success. The Year 1994 marked the beginning of
the nation-wide campaign to save the Bialowieza
Forest. The chief idea was to expand the existing
Bia³owieza National Park to cover the whole Bialowieza
Primeval Forest. Substitute protective measures, such
as the establishment of the so-called "Forest
Promotional Complex" within the local Forestry
Authorities, as well as turning Bialowieza into an
International Biosphere Reserve were implemented.
However, they did not guarantee the sufficient
protection of the entire forest and ultimately
inhibited efforts to enlarge the Bialowieza National
Park (national park status ensures the highest form of
nature protection in Poland). In 1996, as a result of
a massive nation-wide and international support and
the pressure placed on the Polish authorities (foreign
activists travelling to Poland, demonstrations in
front of Polish embassies abroad, over a half million
letters and petitions), the Park was enlarged but
still included only 17% of the entire Bialowieza

Neither the establishment of the Forest Promotional
Complex, nor the enlargement of the Park was
sufficient to protect the remaining, most precious
old-growth stands outside of the park borders from
extensive logging. Therefore, the campaign continued
pushing for a moratorium on cutting the old growth
stands throughout the entire forest. At the beginning
of 1998, the Minister of the Environment announced the
Government's pledge to extend the national park status
over the entire Bialowieza Forest during its
administration period. Shortly afterwards the Chief
Nature Curator (Mr. Janusz Radziejowski, still in this
position) stated more concretely that the whole
Bialowieza Forest would be granted the national park
status, at the latest, by January of 2000. In July of
1998, the General Director of the State Forestry
issued a directive banning the cutting of all
old-growth (100-years-old and older) tree stands. So
far, this moratorium has been the biggest success of
the campaign.

The enlargement of the Park was supposed to be
undertaken by the Ministry of Environment via the
so-called "Contract for the Bialowieza Forest". This
document was also published in English and widely
spread at international meetings (including those with
the European Union). In conjunction with the Contract,
the Polish Sejm (lower parliamentary body) designated
30 million PLN (approx. 8 million Euro) towards the
"expansion of the Bialowieza National Park". The money
was earmarked to cover the costs of restructuring the
Bialowieza Forest region and support local economy.

A sizeable portion went to the Bialowieza municipality.
In February of 2000, the Minister of the Environment
approved the Directive on the enlargement of the
Bialowieza National Park to include the entire forest
by January 1, 2001, thereby making it legally binding.
Two months later local demonstrators opposing plans to
enlarge the Park threw eggs at the Minister of the
Environment during his visit in Bialowieza. This
demonstration was organised by the State Forest
Service and included approximately 800 people.

The foresters also conducted a negative propaganda
campaign among local inhabitants suggesting that the
enlargement of the park would cause economic decline
in the area and even destroy the local Belarussian
ethnic identity and cultural heritage. At the
beginning of the next year the Minister of the
Environment withdrew the Government support for
enlarging the Park. Simultaneously, the Polish
Parliament approved a new Nature Protection Act,
making it generally more difficult to establish
national parks (under the new legislation, all
surrounding municipalities must agree to the park's
creation or expansion).

More to that, The Forest Technical and Economic

Commission moves a resolution
that the moratorium on the cutting of 100 year old
trees should be abolished. The Environmental Minister
allows the forestry authorities to perform intensive
sanitary cutting of spruces, even in the reserves,
because of high occurrence of bark beetle.
Currently, economic exploitation of precious natural
resources from the Bialowieza Forest hangs on
decisions made by the local Forest Promotion Complex

The foresters are demanding that the
Government revoke the moratorium, and intensification
of logging in the forest. Consequently, the part of
the Bialowieza Forest outside the National Park
borders is threatened with destruction of its globally
unique values. As the logging operations are
concentrated in the remnants of natural old growth
stands (plantations are still too young to provide
valuable timber) they will be gone in the coming
years. We treat this as the single most
environmentally destructive undertaking in Europe.

There is no justifiable explanation for ravaging this
invaluable fragment of wilderness for the interest of
just one generation.
What do we want to achieve? To save the Bialowieza
forest it is necessary to protect whole its area in
the highest possible form. All human activities within
the national parks have to be subordinated to the
demands of nature conservation. No other form of
protection (area of protected landscape, landscape
park) sets so stringent conditions, and "biosphere
reserve" has no meaning in the Polish legal system.

Hence, the status of national park is exactly was is
necessary to save the Bialowieza Forest. Therefore,
our goal is to persuade the Polish government to
include the whole area of Forest into the Bialowieza
National Park.

What you can do? We simply ask you for help in our
campaign to save the forest. So if you could inform
your public opinion about the Bialowieza Forest
problem, spread the news to your decision-makers
(politicians and bankers) and journalists, and make
them to act, we would be really grateful. Remember, it
is not only an internal affair of Poland, every human
being has been given right to be concerned and act.
Please note as well, that if the primeval forest is
lost, it is not only our, Polish failure, we all will
loose. For more information and/or to make a donation
contact the international co-ordinator of our campaign

Workshop For All Beings
Ul. Raszynska 32/44 lok.140
02- 026 Warsaw

1 comment:

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