Forest clearances continue in Poland: the latest developments in Europe’s last virgin forest

Forest clearances continue in Poland: the latest developments in Europe’s last virgin forest
02 Mrz 2018

In our article from May 15, 2017 we already raised awareness about the devastating effects forest clearances are having on Europe’s last virgin forest and presented activities to protect the Białowieża National Park. That was a few months ago and the question is, how far could the Polish government be influenced to put a stop to the state-ordered forest clearances. What has happened since then, did the protests by Greenpeace and other organisations have an effect?

The last virgin forest: A look back

It is obvious that Poland’s government will not accept reprimands from external parties. Especially not where land which is clearly part of Polish territory is concerned. We are of course talking about the approximately 600 square kilometres of virgin forest which make up around one third of the forest located between Poland and Belarus. Only a sixth of it is actually protected as a UNESCO natural World Heritage site. The remaining area is threatened by short-sighted violations in the form of large-scale forest clearances. This case primarily concerns the Polish government, who say an infestation with bark beetles is the reason for the deforestation. However, representatives of the relevant environmental organisations are unanimous: financial aspects are the crucial factor here. After all, the virgin forest supplies high-quality timber which can be used for lucrative commercial gain. So is the systematic destruction of the last virgin forest merely an attempt to fill dwindling government coffers?

Persistent resistance by the Polish government despite sustained protests

What environmental organisations can’t manage must surely be possible with official rulings by top-level bodies such as the European Court of Justice. The European Court of Justice demanded a preliminary stop to the deforestation until a final decision could be reached. That this ruling also fell on deaf ears, just like the innovative activities of the committed environmentalists, is proven by, for example, transmissions by the broadcaster TVN24 showing the deforestation in the Polish part of the Białowieża National Park.

What does this mean for people who care deeply about protecting this unique forest? That effective media campaigns such as, for example, the Umweltdruckerei fundraising cycle tour must continue.

Stefan Winklhofer

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