Local forestry authorities say they need to combat a deadly disease affecting spruce. Environmentalists, however, believe the move would damage the ecosystem of the forest, Poland’s only UNESCO World Natural Heritage site.
The State Forests National Forest Holding wants to increase the amount of trees felled to 300,000m3, five times more than previously set out in their ten-year plan.
Foresters say their move is aimed at combating an outbreak of the European bark beetle, ravaging the forest’s spruce population.
“You could say that one tree infested with the beetle may impact 30 other trees, thus leading to their death,” says Dariusz Skirko, from the Białowieża Forest district authority.
“Raising the scale of the clearance to 300,000 cubic metres is nothing compared to the total of 1.8 million cubic metres [of spruce in woodlands managed by the district forest authorities ],” Skirko adds.
Foresters argue that cutting down more trees is essential to stop the forest dying out.
“These fears are groundless,” says Adam Bohdan, a member of the Association for the Protection of All Living Beings, an environmental group. Bohdan adds that decaying logs are essential for the survival of many species inhabiting the Białowieża Forest.
Meanwhile, four years into their ten-year forest management plan, the forestry services have already cut down 90 percent of the trees they had planned to fell – 57,000 cubic metres of spruce has already disappeared.
Public consultations on the plan to cut more trees were held at the headquarters of the Białowieża Forest District on Monday. The meeting was attended by the former head of the Białowieża National Park, Mirosław Stepaniuk, fired by the new environment minister, Jan Szyszko, last week.
Environmentalists have claimed that Stepaniuk was dismissed because he opposed plans to increase tree felling, a move he believed would degrade the Białowieża forest.
In August, a report released by Poland’s central audit office (NIK) heavily criticized the State Forests National Forest Holding.
“Poor financial management of the State Forests National Forest Holding has led to an increase of the company’s governance costs, pay rises and higher investment outlays,” NIK said in the report.
“As a consequence, there is a risk that the State Forests’ primary goals – to maintain and protect forests and their ecosystems as well as to maintain and develop forest crops and resources – will not be met,” the audit office added. (aba/pk)
Source: IAR, TVN24