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ClientEarth Communications

28th July 2017

Wildlife & habitats
Communities & forests
Forests & trade
Nature Directives
Protecting species
Defending habitats
Protected Areas

EU Court imposes emergency ban on logging in Białowieża Forest

The Court of Justice of the EU has issued a ban on logging in Białowieża Forest, saying all chainsaws and harvesters must be stopped immediately. The ruling shows that, in the Court's opinion, increased timber harvesting in Poland's Białowieża Forest could cause serious and irreparable damage to this priceless natural environment.

The court today confirmed that is has imposed an order which means Poland must put a halt to all  tree cutting in the ancient forest. This effectively suspends the March 2016 decision of Polish Environment Minister Jan Szyszko, which allowed a huge increase of timber harvesting. This logging ban is effective until EU judges make a final decision in the case.

ClientEarth lawyer Agata Szafraniuk said: “In the history of the EU, emergency measures like this ban have only been used three times in nature conservation issues. Once, exactly ten years ago, it was used against Jan Szyszko in his first term as Poland’s Environment Minister. Back then, Mr Szyszko withdrew a plan to build a road through the precious Rospuda Valley in Poland. We hope that this time the outcome will be similar.”

To stop illegal logging in Białowieża Forest, the Court has imposed ‘interim measures’. This extraordinary legal tool halts the actions that are the subject of a legal fight, with immediate effect. The Court uses it very rarely - only in cases where there is a serious risk that these activities could cause significant and irreparable damage.

The Court's decision confirms what the European Commission, UNESCO, and most of the scientific community have been alarmed about – that increased logging, not the bark beetle, threatens the protected habitats and species in Białowieża.

“So far there is no case in which an interim measure of the Court was not respected. If Polish authorities do not follow that decision, it will be a serious conflict with EU law. “ adds Szafraniuk.

ClientEarth's work on this topic is funded in part by Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin