UNESCO advisers have called on the Polish Government to suspend plans for a huge increase in logging and let Białowieża Forest grow with minimal intervention.
Representatives visited the protected area after ClientEarth and six other organisations complained to the Commission about illegal plans for a huge increase of logging in Europe’s last primeval forest.
ClientEarth Lawyer Agata Szafraniuk said: “If the Government sticks to its plan for a massive increase in logging, there is a very real risk that Białowieża Forest will be put on the list of the World Heritage in Danger.”
After discussions in Istanbul last week, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee urged the Polish Government to immediately make a management plan that would protect natural processes, dead wood and old trees from human intervention.
The report leaves no doubt that interference in forest must be kept to a minimum. Experts criticised the Government for using “emergency measures” to justify the massive expansion of logging, without specifying what the measures are or inviting input from those affected.
UNESCO advisers also criticised the government for failing to assess the impact of increased logging on the ancient forest, and for ignoring the principles of protection that should be afforded to any World Heritage site. It called on the Government to suspend its logging plan and create an integrated management plan for the whole forest, as quickly as possible.
On 16 June, the European Commission started infringement proceedings against the Polish Government over its illegal plans to log the forest.
The Polish Environment Ministry has sent a confidential response, and the Commission must now decide whether to refer the case to the European Court of Justice, which could result in hefty fines for Poland.