GB No. 12, winter 1994
THE SITUATION IN POLISH FORESTRY
AND BIRD PROTECTION
TIMING OF EVENTS
June, 1992. A document entitled "Programme of development of
Polish Forestry and protection of national park ecosystems in 1993-97" is introduced
by the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Protection of Natural Resources. This
programme involves taking out a loan from the World Bank (Bank for Reconstruction and
Development). It receives heavy criticism from both outsiders and from the majority of
forestry scientists. OTOP sends letters of protest to Polish authorities. Over 1300
people, OTOP members and supporters, send letters of protest to the Polish Prime Minister.
October, 1992. A new, apparently "improved" version of
the programme is announced. However, OTOP receives it for comments only at the end of
December. It mostly repeats the shortcomings of the first version, though the total amount
of timber to be logged is slightly less and the amount of money to be loaned much higher.
OTOPs opinion is that the whole project should be rejected: "the programme
should be rejected, as its realisation will bring harm to our forests . . . it is urgent
to call into being an interdisciplinary team, composed of foresters and naturalists, to
prepare an integrated programme for Polish forestry." This opinion was sent to
all the decision-making bodies and to interested NGOs. Our criticism has been totally
January, 1993. The programme is approved by the Polish government.
February, 1993. The Polish delegation (headed by Deputy Minister B.
Mozga) reaches a preliminary agreement with the IBRD, to borrow US $ 146 million.
So, it seems that the programme is going ahead, and our chances to stop
or to modify it have been exhausted. There is still the possibility, however, that Polish
authorities and the World Bank, though they are ignoring criticism from inside, will be
more sensitive to criticism from abroad. That is our last chance.
WHY OTOP IS AGAINST THE CURRENT FORESTRY POLICY
Major nature conservation problems in Polish forests
- The number and size of national parks and nature reserves should
increase. The total surface area of protected woodland areas in Poland amounts only to
1651 sq. km, out of which only 307 sq. km constitute areas of strictly protected reserves.
This constitutes only 1.9% and 0.35% of Polish woodlands respectively. The mean size of
woodland reserves remains below 70 hectares. Only in three national parks does the
woodland area exceed 100 sq. km. This does not suffice to protect a viable population of
even a single bird species. The Forestry Development Programme does not contain any
proposal to increase the area of protected land. On the contrary, in everyday practice,
the forestry administration does everything possible to prevent increasing the area
covered by national parks. The case of the Białowieża Forest is very instructive here.
It constitutes the most ornithologically valuable Polish forest complex. Its area (580 sq.
km), in spite of being less than 0.7% of Polish woodlands, houses about 5% of
the Ciconia nigra, 10% of the Aquilla pomarina, 20% of the Circaeetus
gallicus, and 25% of the Dendrocopos leucotos breeding in Poland. The national
park there covers less than 10% of the forest area. Attempts to increase the park to cover
the whole area of the forest are fiercely opposed by the forestry administration.
Similarly the grant from the World Bank to preserve "biodiversity" in the
Białowieża Forest is a good example of the hypocrisy of this institution. It has nothing
in common with nature protection. It actually deals with preserving seeds and clones of a
few, economically important trees such as pines or oaks.
- Rotation periods in Polish forests should increase. Trees are
harvested when they reach only a third to half of their biological age. As a result of
these short rotation periods, old (i.e.>80 yrs) stands, most attractive from a nature
protection point of view, constitute barely 20% of Polish forests. The Programme of
Forestry Development does not contain any proposal to increase rotation periods; on the
contrary, the cutting age of Alnus was decreased this year by ten years (from 70
years previously to 60 years currently).
- The proportion of deciduous stands should increase. Deciduous
stands have been replaced by faster growing coniferous plantations. Judging from areas
with proper abiotic and soil conditions their share should be about 60% higher than is the
case (instead of the current 21.9% it should be closer to 35%). Due to much higher
productivity, deciduous stands form breeding habitats for richer bird assemblages (richer
both in terms of species and individuals) than do coniferous stands. Densities in the
former are three to four times higher. Thus, logging of old deciduous stands has more
detrimental consequences for nature conservation than does removing coniferous stands from
comparable areas. One would, therefore, expect that the very cautious exploitation of
deciduous stands should become a high priority in forestry policy. The Programme of
Forestry Development proposes just the opposite. While it is proposed to increase the
overall timber harvest in Poland by 20% in 1993-97, it is planned that the deciduous
timber exploitation will increase by 80%.
- Reclamation of forest wetlands should be banned. Old swampy,
riparian stands are are the most species-rich forest habitats. Several species breed
exclusively or primarily in this type of habitat (Ciconia nigra, Grus grus, Tringa
ochropus, Scolopax rusticola, Aquilla pomarina, other birds of prey, Dendrocopos
leucotos). Open bogs in forests are vital for lekking species such as Tetrao
tetrix. Riparian forests, especially Salix-Populus forests, have been almost
wiped out in Poland. They cover less than 5% of their original area. These areas should of
particular concern to conservationists. Unfortunately, the Programme of Forestry
Development contains no proposals regarding this subject, so it seems that the current
wholesale destruction of wet forest will go on. Currently there are no limitations
(minimum cutting age) on harvesting willows and very low ages (30 years) for poplars. Thus
there is no chance for riparian stands to develop. An area of four to five thousand
hectares is lost yearly due to reclamation works.
- Harvesting methods should be changed from the currently prevailing
clear-cuts to less devastating selective logging practices. The Programme of Forestry
Development proposes just the opposite. Under the programme, about US $ 92 million will be
spent on new, highly efficient timber-harvesting machinery. That sort of forestry
"combine-harvesters" would result in much larger areas of clear-cuts than it is
found nowadays in our forests.
- Dead wood, snags, and hole trees, being important resources for
woodpeckers and other hole nesters, should be permitted to remain in stands. According
to the rules currently operative in our forestry programme, no such structures are
allowed. On the contrary, for so called "sanitary" and "hygienic"
reasons, the rapid removal of all dying, broken, or windfallen trees is one of the top
priorities in forestry management. The Programme of Forestry Development does not contain
anything to change this attitude.
THE ROLE OF THE INTERNATIONAL BANK FOR RECONSTRUCTION AND DEVELOPMENT
IBDR, by loaning the Polish Forestry a sum of US $ 146 million, will
enable our forestry administration to continue (and even expand) this anti-environmental
policy. Though formally only a 26 million dollar part of the loan will be devoted directly
to purchasing the environmentally dangerous harvesting equipment, by making more cash
available, the loan will indirectly lead to the perpetuation of the current, very worrying
In case any further details are necessary please contact:
dr. Tomasz Wesołowski,
Department of Avian Ecology,
0-71/22 50 41;
fax 0-71/22 28 17
GB No. 12, winter 1994 | Contents