Growing support for protests against logging in ancient Polish forest

Published by Lia Flattery on

Auguts 28th, 2017

Members of the European campaign group WeMove are set to travel to Poland’s ancient Białowieża Forest to show solidarity with those protesting against logging in the protected woodland.

In May 2016, the Polish government sanctioned intensive logging in the forest in eastern Poland, resulting in outrage from scientists, NGOs, international organisations and activists.

Białowieża Forest, covering almost 150,000 hectares, contains some of Europe’s last primeval woodland and is home to the largest population of European bison. It is protected under national and EU law and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

 Thousands have protested across Poland in opposition to the logging, while a large group of protesters has also established a camp in the forest.

According to WeMove, these protesters have collected evidence of logging across the forest and have organised road blockades and occupations of the harvesting machines.

In an open letter, WeMove announced its support of the protesters at Białowieża, stating: “We can strengthen them with a powerful message of solidarity from across Europe.”

“The only thing standing between the trees and the harvesters is the power of people’s protest,” they added, indicating that the group will now join protestors at their forest base in a show of solidarity.

WeMove intends to bring increased “international attention” to the campaign and to donate funds to support the group throughout the winter.

The campaign group also launched an online petition opposing the logging, which has almost reached half its goal of 200,000 signatures. The campaigners will bring a list of all the petition signatories with them to the protesters’ camp.

Since the start of 2017, over 50,000 trees have been cut down in Białowieża Forest, many of them over 100 years old.

According to the Polish government, the logging is necessary to fight an outbreak of bark beetle, however, scientists across Poland and Europe have challenged this.

Researchers have suggested that the logging is actually being carried out for commercial purposes.

UNESCO has also called on Poland to “immediately halt all logging and wood extraction in old-growth forests” and to clarify reports of logging targeting tree species other than those affected by bark beetle.

The European Commission referred Poland to the European Court of Justice last month for increased logging in the forest, and called on the ECJ to “suspend the works immediately”.

The ECJ then ordered Poland to cease logging while the court deliberated on its final judgment due to fears that irreparable damage will be done to the forest.

Despite this, the Polish government has vowed to continue logging at Białowieża, which would be a serious breach of EU law.

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Lia Flattery

Lía is a former writer and Deputy Editor at Trinity News. She also has a BA in History and English Literature from Trinity College Dublin.