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Poland's Bialowieza Forest tragedy

ruining European ancient forest & ecosystem

1 - 1 of 1 posts

robert99 robert99 Sweden Posts: 1360
1 21 Feb 2018
Poland broke international law by drastically increasing logging in one of Europe’s last primeval woodlands, which is home to endangered animal species, an official of the European Court of Justice said on Tuesday.

Yves Bot, an advocate general at the court, issued his opinion on the Bialowieza Forest at a time of strained relations between the European Union and Poland, a member state that has repeatedly defied the organization and challenged its authority. The case will be decided by the Court of Justice, which usually follows the advice of its advocates general.

The increased logging is “necessarily liable to result in a deterioration of the breeding sites of the protected species,” Mr. Bot wrote.

In 2016, Poland said it would triple the amount of logging allowed in the Bialowieza Forest. Last year, the European Commission, the European Union’s executive body, sued in the Court of Justice to block that increase, and the court ordered Poland to halt the large-scale felling of trees until the case was resolved.

Warsaw initially defied the court order, but in December, it reduced logging in the forest to a minimum, after the court ordered the government to begin paying 100,000 euros, about $124,000, for each day it violated the directive.

The woodland, a United Nations World Heritage site in northeast Poland along its border with Belarus, is a relic of ancient forests, with some of the largest and oldest trees in Europe. Scientists have long argued that they can use the forest — a mix of deciduous and evergreen trees towering over thick undergrowth — to study how natural processes worked for thousands of years, before humans deforested most of the Continent.

The forest, part of it contained within a national park, is also home to the largest colony of European bison, or wisent, as well as to species that are rare or even extinct elsewhere.

Poland has argued that its widely criticized operations in the primeval forest have complied with European law. It says they have been aimed at combating an invasion of bark beetles.

Still, Poland’s environment minister said the government would study Mr. Bot’s opinion closely and respect the court’s final ruling.

“Poland is a state of law that respects the opinion of the spokesman of the European Court of Justice,” the minister, Henryk Kowalczyk, said in a statement published on Tuesday morning. “The Bialowieza Forest is an exceptionally valuable area for Poland, and all of the past actions had been undertaken in the interest of maintaining it in the best possible condition for the present and future generations.”

The clash over the forest is just part of a larger dispute between the conservative Polish government and Brussels, which has accused the governing Law and Justice Party of undermining democracy and the rule of law. The government has tightened its control of the judiciary and imposed new restrictions on speech and demonstrations.

This month, it enacted a law making it a crime to say that Poland bore any blame for Nazi atrocities, and specifically banning the use of the phrase “Polish death camps.” That measure has put a great strain on Warsaw’s relations with Israel and the United States.

The final ruling of the European Court of Justice in the Bialowieza Forest case is expected in several weeks, said Krzysztof Cibor, an official from the Polish branch of Greenpeace.