More than 180,000 cubic metres of forest to be cut down in area that is home to Europe’s largest mammal and tallest trees. Poland has started logging in the ancient Białowieża forest, which includes some of Europe’s last primeval woodland, despite fierce protests from environmental groups battling to save the World Heritage site.
“The operation began today,” national forest director Konrad Tomaszewski said of the plan to harvest wood from non-protected areas of one of the last vestiges of the immense forest that once stretched across Europe.
Last stand for Europe’s remaining ancient forest as loggers prepare to move in
He said the goals were to stop forest degradation by combating what the environment ministry says is a spruce bark beetle infestation, and protect tourists and rangers from harm by cutting down trees that risk falling on trails.
However, the only published inventory shows that nearly half of the trees earmarked for logging may be non-spruce varieties, which have been unaffected by the beetle outbreak. And environmental campaigners warn that the tree chopping will destroy an ecosystem unspoiled for more than 10,000 years that is home to the continent’s largest mammal, the European bison, and its tallest trees.
“We’re calling on the European commission to intervene before the Polish government allows for the irreversible destruction of the Białowieża forest,” said Greenpeace Poland activist Katarzyna Jagiełło.
“We need to halt this [bark beetle] disease in its tracks,” said Poland’s environment minister Jan Szyszko. “We need to ensure that there is a healthy logging of trees, something that is planned. We only want to fell an area of 188,000 cubic metres. We want to protect priority habitats for the EU. We are trying to improve and correct the situation.”
Campaigners have taken issue with the government rationale for the project, saying the beetle’s presence does not pose any threat to the forest’s ecosystem.
“The minister does not understand that this insect is a frequent and natural visitor, that it has always existed and the forest has managed to survive,” Jagiełło said.
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