A decaying log in Bialowieza Forest

More logging in Bialowieza Forest announced as Commission urged to act

More intense logging in the protected Białowieża Forest will begin in mid-April, Polish Environment Minister Jan Szyszko has told journalists.

This comes a year after ClientEarth and other environmental organisations filed a complaint to the European Commission. The complaint argued that the government’s plan to a threefold increase in logging in Bialowieża, which is the last primeval forest in Europe, is illegal. The Polish government did not assess the impact more felling would have on Białowieża Forest. This breaches EU law.

In June 2016, the Commission began formal infringement proceedings against the Polish government.

Agata Szafraniuk, lawyer with ClientEarth said: “The announcement by the Polish government is very worrying. It proves that the Minister disregards not only the law, but also Poland’s international commitments and the international community. Only last month Environment Commissioner Vella called on Polish authorities to stop logging as it raises serious legal and environmental concerns. The European Commission needs to take action this month if irreversible damage to this ancient forest is to be avoided.”

ClientEarth will continue to fight for this delicate and important ecosystem. Although the decision to increase logging in the Białowieża Forest has not been reversed, the Commission’s actions have ensured that large-scale timber harvesting has not started.

We urge the Commission to react before the end of April. If it issues a reasoned opinion – the last stage in the infringement procedure before the case goes to court, it will be the last chance for the Polish government to halt its harmful plans. Otherwise, the Commission will put the matter before the Court of Justice of the European Union and the Polish government could face high fines.

More than 160,000 Poles have signed a petition to protest against the increased logging in Białowieża Forest.

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Frank Vassen