Permission to cut up to up to 188,000 cubic meters of timber was granted by Minister Szyszko on Good Friday, with further details released today. Białowieża is Europe’s last primeval forest and is protected by EU habitats law. Logging more trees breaches EU law because the government did not do a proper assessment of the impact on the forest, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
ClientEarth Lawyer Marcin Stoczkiewicz said: “The Minister’s decision to drastically increase logging in Białowieża violates EU law. Szyszko should reverse this decision before the logging starts and it is too late.”
What could happen if there is increased logging in Białowieża?
The European Commission treats breaches of the Habitats Directive particularly seriously. In 1999, the Netherlands issued a license to catch cockles in the Wadden Sea without assessing the impact on the protected site. The European Court of Justice ruled this was illegal, resulting in all concessions being cancelled and the resignation of the Secretary of State.
Białowieża’s world heritage status – the only such site in Poland – could also be withdrawn, as happened in Germany.
Ministers claim the logging will protect Białowieża from an outbreak of bark beetle. However, most scientists, including the State Council for the Protection of Nature and the Polish Academy of Science, say cutting more trees would not benefit the forest. On the contrary, increased logging would devastate this finely balanced ecosystem.
Polish people are also strongly opposed to more logging, with 130,000 petitioning the government in recent weeks.