Last stand for Europe’s remaining ancient forest as loggers prepare to move in – ‘An environmental coup is being staged here’Posted by Jim at Tuesday, May 24, 2016
By Arthur Neslen
18 May 2016
Białowieża, Poland (The Guardian) – Europe’s last primeval forest is facing what campaigners call its last stand as loggers prepare to start clear-cutting trees, following the dismissal of dozens of scientists and conservation experts opposed to the plan.
Poland’s new far right government says logging is needed because more than 10% of spruce trees in the Unesco world heritage site of Białowieża are suffering from a bark beetle outbreak. But nearly half the logging will be of other species, according to its only published inventory.
Oak trees as high as 150 feet that have grown for 450 years could be reduced to stumps under the planned threefold increase in tree fells. Białowieża hosts Europe’s largest bison population and wolves and lynx still roam freely across its sun-mottled interior. Its foliage stretches for nearly 1,000 square miles across the border between Poland and Belarus.
Beneath its green canopy, sunlight filters down on to a panorama of skyscraper trees soaring as much as 180 feet into the air, swampy water pools dammed by beavers, and psychedelic fungi that sprout from tree trunks.
But a recently-passed logging law to allow work to begin on the old-growth forest has divided families, and led to death threats against campaigners and allegations of an “environmental coup” by state interests linked to the timber trade. The logging in Białowieża is expected to raise about 700m złotys (£124m), and pave the way for extensive and more lucrative tree clearances.
Sources say that internal government discussions have already begun on extending the new timber regime to the national park, which covers 17% of the forest and has been untouched by humans since the ice age.
Mirosław Stepaniuk says he was sacked as director of Białowieża’s national park shortly after Polish elections six months ago because of his support for turning the whole forest into a protected conservation area.
He told the Guardian: “An environmental coup is being staged here not just by the government, but by the national forestry authority. If they are successful, it could trigger a cascade, an avalanche of similar cases in other places.” [more]