Save Białowieża, Poland’s last primeval forest!

Bison in Poland’s Białowieża Forest The last of their kind in Europe: a herd of 900 wild bison roam Białowieża Forest. (© Tomasz Kaminski)

There is nothing quite like Białowieża Forest in Poland. Untouched by humans for centuries, it is a treasure trove of biodiversity – but now loggers are firing up their chainsaws. Tell Poland’s government and UNESCO to stop the destruction of one of Europe’s last primeval forests.

Call to action

To: Prime Minister Szydło, Environment Minister Szyszko, EU Environment Commissioner Vella, UNESCO World Heritage Centre Director Rössler

Poland’s Białowieża Forest is one of Europe’s most biodiverse ecosystems and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Stop the logging immediately.

Read letter

“Białowieża is a haven for biodiversity – unparalleled on this continent,” says Jaroslaw Krogulec of Birdlife Poland. 180 bird species breed there, including three-toed woodpeckers and Eurasian pygmy owls. Lynx and elk are among the 59 mammal species. The forest is also the habitat of 900 bison – the largest wild herd on the continent. Biologists are fascinated by the multitude of mosses, lichens and fungi.

The UNESCO declared the forest, which straddles the border of Poland and Belarus, to be a World Heritage Site in 1979. Yet Poland’s government is determined to destroy this treasure.

Loggers using heavy machinery are not even stopping for 150-year-old spruces and ignoring the breeding seasons of birds. “It infuriates me that some vandals, barbarians, can destroy the forest,” said Professor Tomasz Wesolowski, a biologist who has been studying Białowieża for decades. “I don’t know when the breaking point will be...but with every cut we get closer to it. If we lose the forest, we lose it forever.”

The Polish government claims that logging is necessary to protect the forest from the bark beetle. Ecologists consider this to be a pretext, pointing out that they are a natural part of the forest ecosystem. The government’s sole interest appears to be profiting from the sale of timber. Logging has tripled since it changed Poland’s forestry law.

The nationalist government has ignored warnings from the European Commission threatening to take it before the EU’s Court of Justice. Meanwhile, Polish environmental activists are courageously standing up for the forest, chaining themselves to the logger’s machinery and risking arrest.

Please speak out for the future of Białowieża forest and sign our petition.

Back­ground

Białowieża Forest straddles the border of Poland and Belarus. In 1979, UNESCO declared Poland’s Białowieża National Park to be a World Heritage Site. The neighboring Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park in Belarus was also awarded the title in 1992. The area was expanded in 2014 and now covers 141,885 hectares, plus a buffer zone of 166,708 hectares.

The World Heritage Site title does not automatically guarantee protection, however. While in Belarus almost the entire area of ​​the World Heritage Site is also a national park, only 17 percent of the site is protected in Poland.

For more information, please visit:

Official website of Białowieża National Park

Białowieża UNESCO World Heritage Site

UNESCO’s concerns about the state of conservation of the Polish part of the World Heritage Site

ALERT: Europe’s greatest old-growth forest faces the axe

Reuters: Activists step up protest against logging in ancient Polish forest

Seattle Times: Fate of primeval forest in balance as Poland plans logging

US News and World Report: Poland Faces Deadline to Stop Over-Logging in Ancient Forest

The Guardian:

Polish law change unleashes ‘massacre’ of trees

Poland starts logging primeval Białowieża forest despite protests

Euractiv: Poland says primeval forest should not be UNESCO natural heritage site

PRI: In Poland, a primeval forest is threatened by commercial logging

Stand in solidarity with the Białowieża Forest!

Letter

To: Prime Minister Szydło, Environment Minister Szyszko, EU Environment Commissioner Vella, UNESCO World Heritage Centre Director Rössler

Dear Madame Prime Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Białowieża is a priceless natural treasure. Its biodiversity is unparalleled in Europe, and ecologists and nature lovers praise its beauty in glowing tones. UNESCO declared parts of the forest to be a World Heritage Site in 1979.

It is therefore scandalous that Białowieża Forest is being clear-cut on a large scale. The loggers apparently do not even spare trees that are older than 150 years. The incomparable ecosystem, which encompasses ancient trees as well as deadwood and which provides habitat for numerous bird, mammal and insect species, is in acute danger.

Ecologists consider the argument that felling the trees is necessary to protect the forest against bark beetles to be a pretext.

Numerous scientists and conservationists from Poland and the rest of Europe oppose logging in Białowieża Forest and are committed to preserving it.

Please take responsibility for one of the last primeval forests of Europe and protect Białowieża.

Yours faithfully,

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