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Greenpeace scales ministry in row over ancient Polish forest

PR dla Zagranicy
Nick Hodge 12.04.2016 12:12
Greenpeace activists clambered atop the environment ministry on Tuesday to launch a renewed appeal to the government over a logging drive at the UNESCO-listed Białowieża Forest.
Greenpeace activists at Poland's ministry of the environment. The banner reads 'The whole of the forest [should be] a national park'. Photo: PAP/Bartłomiej ZborowskiGreenpeace activists at Poland's ministry of the environment. The banner reads 'The whole of the forest [should be] a national park'. Photo: PAP/Bartłomiej Zborowski

A banner was unfurled from the roof by activists with the slogan: All of the forest a national park.”

Greenpeace has simultaneously appealed to Prime Minister Beata Szydło and chairman of the Law and Justice party Jarosław Kaczyński, in an attempt to halt an extensive logging programme at the forest in eastern Poland.

The environment ministry had cited the preponderence of the bark beetle as the catalyst for the logging action, approving the plan on 25 March.

This is the last moment to save the forest and prevent the embarrassment of the Polish government on the international arena,” director of Greenpeace Poland Robert Cyglicki said on Tuesday.

He said the NGO's letters and recommendations had been ignored” by the government.

He likewise argued that an intervention last week by Director General of State Forests Konrad Tomaszewski to protect some parts of the forest that would have been affected by the ministry's decision is flawed.

Greenpeace is now calling for a plan to be implemented along the lines of one championed by Jarosław Kaczyński's late brother, former president Lech Kaczynski, who died in the 2010 Smolensk air disaster.

Cyglicki noted that Lech Kaczyński's proposal was tripartite. The late president's concept was to make the whole forest a national park with five zones of use (only a third of the Polish part of the forest is a national park at present).

Some of the zones would be subject to strict protection, and only a small part of the forest would be available to be exploited for the economic needs of the local community such as logging.

Government's position

Minister of the Environment Jan Szyszko said on Tuesday that the activists “are certainly invited” to take part in talks.

To date, the minister has argued that an infestation of bark beetles has made it necessary to increase the amount of trees logged at the forest (the part which is a national park will not be affected).

It has been estimated that about half a million trees are endangered by the bark beetle, which is gnawing through spruces.

Szyszko said previously that the logging is essential so as “to save the forest” from the beetle.

The approval for the logging increase occurred after woodcutters working for the State Forests National Forest Holding came close to reaching their logging quota for the period 2012 to 2021, five years ahead of schedule.

Loggers were entitled to log 63,000 cubic metres of wood from 2012 to 2021. The new plan would allow for the quota to be trebled.

However, environmentalists have argued that the bark beetle's presence is a natural process and that it will not be detrimental to the forest in the long term, as outbreaks have occurred before, allowing other flora and fauna to flourish.

Several academic bodies have joined Greenpeace in sending an appeal to the government: the Council of the Faculty of Biology of University of Warsaw, the Council of the Faculty of Biology and Earth Sciences of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków and the Council of the Faculty of Biological Sciences of the University of Wrocław. (nh/pk)

Source: PAP/IAR

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