GB No. 3(14)/94
Environmental damage studies which were carried out in 1992 revealed that only 8 % of trees were in perfect health and 48.8 % were in defoliation classes 2 - 4. This means that their photosynthetic assimilation apparatus (pine needles and leaves) had decreased by more than 25 %. The previous year's corresponding figures were 9.2 % and 45 %. When compared with 1989, the number of damaged trees has increased by 14 % and the number of moderately and seriously defoliated trees has increased by 16.9 %.
Forest monitoring is carried out in 1494 Permanent Monitoring Areas (PMAs). They were established in tree stands which were more than 40 years old and in proportion to the age class and the surface occupied by each tree species. PMAs include forest areas of 60 km2 (24 mi2) with 20 randomly selected trees to be monitored. The research is a part of the European system of forest monitoring, which is based on methodical estimations of defoliation and assimilation apparatus discoloring.
The health of Polish forests varies; nevertheless, it is getting worse and worse. The situation is particularly alarming in the Sudety mountains, where deforestation approaches 15,000 ha (58 mi2). Trees are dying in the Kłodzka Valley, the upper parts of Beskid ¦l±ski, and the Żywiecki and Tatra Mountains.
The poor condition of forests is influenced by several factors, especially domestic and transboundary air pollution and intensifying pest outbreaks (over 50 species) and the growth of pathogenic fungi (over 20 species). In 1992 Polish forests were weakened by drought, and the subsequent fires were a disaster. The weakened resistance to pollution, pests and fires is partly a consequence of the prevalence of pine monocultures (69.2 %) in the structure of our forests. The difficult situation of forest eco-systems is made worse by excess logging, especially in private forests.
The National Forest Organization has already started to fight insect pests, especially the nun moth, which destroys the assimilation apparatus in coniferous trees, or, if there are few of them, in deciduous trees. Tree stands decay after the nun moth has fed on them. From 1946 to 1976, the nun moth was exterminated chemically on an area of 113,000 ha (436 mi2). The previous outbreak, which was the largest ever observed, took place from 1978 to 1985. The nun moth threatened over 3.7 million hectares(14,000 mi2) then. Rescue measures were taken on an area of 6.2 million hectares (24,000 mi2), in some places repeatedly. The outbreak was particularly intense in 1982. To spray 2.3 million hectares (8,800 mi2), 159 agriculture planes and 23 helicopters had to be engaged. The following decade saw a decrease in the nun moth population to a safe level. Populations expanded locally in 1991, and this year's measures have been taken on an area of 110,000 hectares (425 mi2). This insect is found in large numbers in Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Holland and other countries.
In Poland, there have been outbreaks of not only nun moth but pine sawfly, pine beauty, pine lappet, pine webworm, and pine moth as well. They must be fought, so in 1993 an area of 296,000 hectares (1200 mi2) was sprayed. It is estimated that this year, measures will have to be taken on nearly 750,000 hectares (3000 mi2), mainly to fight the nun moth (on an area of 425,000 ha or 1600 mi2). This pest is particularly dangerous for forests in the Mazurian Region; in the area of Olsztyn, for example, ~193,600 ha (~750 mi2) will be sprayed. Forests belonging to other national forest regional headquarters are in danger, too (Toruń - 50,000 ha, Wrocław - 50,000 ha (200 mi2), Białystok - 40,400 ha (160 mi2), and Piła - 36,300 ha (140 mi2)).
l, Professor Andrzej Szujecki, the Vice-Minister of Environmental Protection, established the Headquarters for Fighting the Nun Moth, which involves specialists from the Forest Department, the Central Headquarters for National Forests, the Institute for Forestry Research, and EU representatives. Rescue operations, which started at the end of April, will last until the end of October because corrections need to be made. The operation will cost ~21 million dollars (~$ 9 million will be obtained from abroad - from the PHARE Project, the Environmental Protection Agency in Denmark, and the Know-How Fund from the U.K.). The National Forests and the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management will provide the remaining $12 million. The Central Headquarters for National Forests has signed a 117 billion zł contract to provide air services: 55 planes and 20 helicopters have been hired, and more will be chartered if necessary.
This year there is a chance that rescue operations will be carried out more smoothly than in previous years. Ten navigation facilities, which use satellites in directing planes to fields, will be purchased thanks to the loan for Development of Selected Branches of Forestry from the World Bank. Modern atomizers, which spray preparations more efficiently,will be used. In previous years stomach-contacting insecticides called pyretroids (Decis 2.5 EC, for example) were applied, and biopreparations were put to use around lakes and in national parks. Pesticides fought pests effectively, but they were also damaging to many other insect species and they polluted the underbrush. This year only selective and, if possible, harmless pesticides will be applied. Dimilin 480 SC, which is produced in Holland, will be used on 500,000 ha (2000 mi2) and Foray 48D, a Danish preparation based on a bacterial strain which attacks pests, will be used on ~150,000 ha (580 mi2). Application of these preparations meets EU recommendations, which aim to eliminate the use of pyretroids in pest control.
Chemical measures are a necessary evil. It is estimated that 70,000 ha (270 mi2) of coniferous forests could be destroyed completely and an additional 450,000 ha (1700 mi2) could be significantly weakened, not to mention mixed and deciduous forests, which could lose over 80,000 ha (300 mi2). If outbreaks were not fought, pest populations would grow rapidly and there could be an unpredictable disaster next year. The use of pesticides means that although the pesticides are relatively safe for the environment, people should be more careful when consuming berries, herbs, mushrooms, etc., to avoid accidental poisoning. People will be informed about pest control operations and access to forests will be temporarily banned.
Apart from emergency actions such as spraying, foresters aim to improve the forest's natural defense system. This means, for example, creating a favourable habitat for insectivorous birds, keeping the wild boar population at a steady, high level, changing the structure of tree stands in order to eliminate monocultures, and introducing more ant hills. It is also essential to reduce sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides emissions into the atmosphere.
Firemen have financial problems,too. It is possible that there will not be enough money for fire extinguishung operations, especially in large forest complexes, on the level of operations which took place two years ago. Last year there were 4421 fires in areas under the National Forests Administration. The fires consumed 3676 ha (14 mi2) of forests including 29 large tree stands of over 10 ha each. The fires were caused mainly by arsonists (28%), by careless adults (31%), by transfer from other areas (4%), and by railway transport (3%). The cause of 27% of the fires was unknown.
The National Forests Administration is quite prepared to fight forest fires and has chartered, apart from agriculture and fire extinguishing planes, 18 patrol planes. It maintains 8350 water storage points, 76 heavy and medium fire trucks, and 57 light fire trucks. Last year the cost of fire protection in forests was 165 billion zł. We should remember, however, that it is not the National Forest Administration, but state and voluntary fire brigades that are burdened with extinguishing fires, and they are meagerly supplied with funds.
National Forests are divided into three categories of forest fire hazard:
This categorization takes into account various features including the age of the tree stand, species composition, geographical location, climatic conditions, and forest fire frequency in former years.
March and April of 1993 were rather cold and damp, so fires did not destroy too much. However, the situation in the summer will be much more difficult and fires will be hard to avoid. The extent of damage in tree stands will be dependent not only on suitable services but on our activity as well.
In the last two years, private forests have suffered a great deal. This was a consequence of the Tree Cutting Act (January 1st, 1992), which allows forest owners to harvest trees without permission from the authorities, on condition that they reforest the clearing within 2 years. The Act, however, does not provide any legal sanctions against the people who break it, and the cost of reforesting 1 ha is pretty large (~10 million zl).
In 1992 private forests occupied 17% of all forests (1,489,400 ha), including 1,385,700 ha owned by private individuals, 69,500 ha owned by rural communities, 21,600 ha owned by cooperative societies and farmers' circles, and 12,600 ha,.which belonged to churches and various organisations. The average area of a private forest is ~1 ha, which means that the forest itself is not important to the owner. The difficult economic situation and tightening of restrictions in the near future are conducive to excessive cutting. It is estimated that in the last two years, nearly 15,000 ha of private forests were cleared and a similar area was devastated. This can be observed especially in the eastern and southern districts.
In March, 1994 ,the Forest Council and the Ministry of Environmental Protection announced that the Forest Act would be changed in order to stop the forest robber economy. Permits for tree harvesting and obligatory wood marking will be restored, and the forest guard will be strengthened. When wood marking was not obligatory it was possible to steal wood from national forests, because the wood was not distinguishable. Last year national forests lost ~60,000 cubic metres of wood.
Andrzej Zarczynski, M. Eng.
Institute of General and Ecological Chemistry
at ŁódĽ Polytechnic
reprinted from Zielone Brygady June '94
translated by Jacek Iwański
Note: One hectare is equal to 10,000 square meters, or 2.47 acres.
UNCONTROLLED TREE CUTTING
Tree cutting in theLublin region has become disastrous and out of control. The cutting is carried out not only by forest owners, but by well-organized gangs of criminals. The result is that the owners employ forest rangers to protect the trees from the robbers. The managing director of the State Forests Regional Headquarters told the Polish Press Agency that this year, 645 ha (2.5 mi2) of forest have been clear-cut, and there has been excessive cutting on an additional 5400 ha (21 mi2).
From time to time we are informed by the press and TV that it is necessary to extend skiing facilities in our mountains. New ski lifts and cable railways are expected to improve the quality of skiing in Poland, attract more tourists, put new life into farming in mountain districts, etc. The environmental problems which will certainly arise are either ignored or minimized (skiers are environmentally friendly because they ski on snow, right?). Environmentalists who consider the new projects useless are referred to as incompetent and irresponsible. A misinformed person could think that the green movement is a bunch of cranks and the only chance for Karpacz or Zakopane is a number of new ski lifts.
Environmentalists' arguments are considerable. Building ski lifts and planning downhill routes lead to overcutting, which reduces the soil and water protection functions of the forest. Besides, disturbing tree stand density in a harsh climate weakens its stability. The stand becomes susceptible to wind, snow ,and frost. It may cause a significant lowering of the tree-line. Skiers, too, destroy plant life by cutting spruce and dwarf pine branches with the edges of their skis. When there is little snow, even bilberry bushes are damaged. What is more, building ski lifts means further investments -- roads, car parks, mountain huts, restaurants, etc. And the more people come to the mountains, the more waste and fumes they produce and the more grass they crush under their feet.
What is worse, the skiing lobby is particularly interested in investing in high mountains (there is usually more snow there), and those areas are important for environmental protection -- especially those areas above the tree-line. They provide the habitat for unique flora and fauna and include such isolated and small areas as the Tatra Mountains, the highland pastures in the Bieszczady, the Babia Góra Range, Pilsko in the Carpathians, and ¦nieżnik with the top part of Karkonosze in the Sudety. Almost all of them are protected, except the peak of Pilsko, which we hope will soon be incorporated into an extended Pilsko Reserve. In spite of this, people who consider themselves "ski lift specialists" are still trying to build new facilities in our mountains. They forget that the Tatras or the Karkonosze are national parks, and there is no place for compromise between the skiing lobby and conservationists. There should be no discussion on new proposals of settling ski lifts or downhill ski routes! In practice, things are different. I read in the January issue of Chrońmy Przyrodę Ojczystą (1/94) that the Scientific Council of the Park supports an expenditure project for the area of Szrenica in Karkonosze National Park. This piece of news, together with other alarming signs from the Karkonosze (e.g. "Harley Fans In Szrenica" by Paweł Listwan in the 3/94 issue of ZB) is very depressing. Why do people responsible for environmental protection in the Karkonosze make such decisions, even when there is already far too much acid rain and tourist traffic? What can we expect from tourists visiting Szrenica or ¦nieżne Kotły when the Karkonosze National Park Management does not take care of what it is responsible for?
Last of all, I'd like to explain something. It is not my intention to deprecate skiing. However, I think that skiing expenditures should be carried out in such areas as Zieleniec or some parts of Beskid ¦l±ski which are not as important for environmental protection.
Scientific Circle of Biologists at WSP in Olsztyn
Institute of Biology and Environmental Protection
reprinted from Zielone Brygady June '94
translated by Jacek Iwański
The charge for spin fishing from a boat on a state-owned lake in the Koszalin voivodeship this year is 180,000 zł, and for the same pleasure on lakes in the Bydgoszcz voivodeship one has to pay 1,700,000 zł. The lakes in both voivodeships not long ago were owned by the state fish farms. The lakes around Bydgoszcz in 1993 were in the hands of a workers company, a former member of the Polish Fish Farms (PGRyb), through a multi-year lease. National fish farms in the Koszalin and Słupsk voivodeships were taken over by the Agency of Agricultural Property December 31, 1993. Their privatization is supposed to be finished by the end of 1994.
The difference in the fishing charge (six times higher in Bydgoszcz) is an example of the effects of privatization of the freshwater fishing economy. In the Koszalin and Słupsk voivodeships, big lakes like Resko, Jamno, Bukowo, Kopań, Gardno, and Modła may be in danger. Two of them are situated in the region of Słowiński National Park.
The state lakes were treated by legislators in the same way as state farms, and so they ended up under the control of the Agency of Agricultural Property. Unused land, farm buildings without doors and windows, children eating only once a day at school, unemployed people -- that's more or less the way we imagine the condition of state farms these days. There is little concern if the buildings of one state farm fall down and thousands of hectares lie fallow. The exploitative and thoughtless management of a few big lakes such as coastal lakes can have irreversible biological and ecological effects. The destruction of one lake leads to the destruction of surronding forests and agricultural farms, is dangerous for villages and towns, kills tourism, and affects the quality of coastal waters in the Baltic Sea.
Developments noted in the daily news are causing alarm. For instance, in an Olsztyn voivodeship auction the lease of a lake was obtained by a man famous in the region for being a poacher. He offered a higher price than professional fishermen who had been working on this lake for years. A big lake in Pasyń became the property of Energopol, a company from Warsaw.
There were 62 state fish farms in Poland. These farms covered 270,000 hectares of water, including many trout and carp ponds and hatcheries. In contrast to state agricultural farms these fish farms are profitable -- they have no debts, they pay their taxes and their social contribution (ZUS) on time. They are appealing to investors.
Nobody can take care of lakes as well as fishermen. Most of them try to prevent division of the fish farms into smaller farms during privatization. They are afraid that the lakes and the ponds will become the property of amateurs seeking quick and easy money. A fish farm can be destroyed in just one season.
Fish farms in the Koszalin and Słupsk voivodeships want to follow the Poznań example in their activities. This would mean a change in the signboard and in the way of financial accounting, but the farmer would not change. The whole working team would cooperate with the Agency, or the Agency would give the company the possibility of administering the farm for 10 years.
The National Fish Farm in Koszalin (that's its current name) owns 24,000 hectares of lakes. The farm includes local companies in Mielno, Darłowo, Szczecinek, Czaplinek i Złocieniec. The farms in the Słupsk voivodeship cover about 10,765 hectares of water. A farm in Słupsk in 1992 was divided into 4 companies, in Bytowo, Lęba, Miastko, and Słupsk (with the board in Siemianowice).
The privatization of lakes can break the right of public access to water. This right is based on legislation from 1984 (the Water Law). Water areas, according to the law, are for the benefit of the whole nation. Limitation of public access to water areas is possible only after making a special decision. This legislation demands revision, as well as the section relating to the ownership of lakes.
There have already been some proposals for a new water law. They were provided by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, Forestry and Natural Resources. One of the drafts was supposed to be discussed during the meeting of the Economic Committee of the Council of Ministers (KERM) in April, 1994, and then it was to be studied by the ministers and Parliament. KERM did not look at the proposed legislation either in April or in May. The project fell to the President's Environmental Advisory Council, where it was strongly criticized because it included no solution to the problem of water ownership. The name of "privatization of water resources" is too general and it conceals the threat of closing access to big lakes which till now have been used for sport activities, recreation, and relaxation.
Even under governments upholding the current legislation, a new tenant of a lake will often try to keep people far from his water area. He will charge money for fishing, which will make people reluctant to pursue this kind of recreation. He may try to increase prices for tourists camping and using canoes or boats. This is going to happen at the lakes owned by rich firms from Warsaw or Silesia, which have leased the areas exclusively for themselves and are going to treat anybody from outside as an intruder.
The Agency of Agricultural Property has leased the lakes for 10 years. It requires the new user to employ at least 95% of the previous workers. A tenancy for a shorter time would lead to a exploitative economy. One can live from a lake if they fish zander, pike, pollan, and above all, eels. One can make the most money on eels. But young eels from naturally reproducing populations only reach some of the coastal lakes, and even there there are not a significant number of them. The fry have to be imported, which costs a lot of money. Stocking lakes in Koszalin with fry costs a billion złoty every year. This means that money is locked up for many years. The eels reach their trade weight after six years of feeding in lakes. Pollan, zander, and pike have to be taken from one lake to another, because various factors make their natural reproduction impossible.
If lakes stay in the hands of fishermen (through workers partnerships, for example) and if the fish farms are not divided, then a rational fishing economy can be continued, without conflicts with other water users. Only big farms can afford to import fry, and only professional fishermen won't cut the branch they are sitting on.
Of course there are also small lakes that have very small food stock, and are situated next to villages and towns or cities. These water areas can be leased or sold to private investors or to the community (for public swimming areas).
If a lake which is attractive from a fisherman's point of view falls into the hands of a greedy man, after two years of exploitation there will be only fish-weed in it, or maybe even poison. After a few years, this kind of user will give up or will stop paying and then the Agency will break the contract with him. There really aren't any efficient ways to protect against the dishonest use of water areas.
reprinted from Eko-Bałtyk, July/August '94
translated by Ariadna Romeyko-Hurko
It seems to me that Jan Kuboszek, the parish priest in Pogwizdów, is not a romantic. This thought crosses my mind as I read in the local newspapers that he has had 36 majestic ashes, lindens, acacias, oaks, and birches cut down. The trees had been growing around a cemetery in his parish. The tallest had reached 35 m (115 feet), as tall as the tower of a nearby church. Now there are only bare stumps. But man will solve this problem, too, and will root out the remains of that beautiful stand of trees. Maybe in other situations the priest reveals a romantic nature after all, such as when he preaches a passionate sermon or takes part in a pilgrimage. I don't know. But even if it turns out that he has some vestige of romanticism in the depths of his soul, he still will never be regarded as a nature lover. He hates nature, and, what is more, nature disturbs him. He accused the trees of dropping their branches and damaging tombstones by the growth of their roots. Such stupid excuses are familiar to me.
For me "to kill" means "to end the life of." We are compassionate when someone kills accidentally and unintentionally, but we fly into a rage when the killer is malicious or, even worse, sly. The trees were alive. Now, they are dead -- so the priest killed them. Strictly speaking, he sentenced them to death, and the execution was carried out by other people. He did not himself touch the green creatures' rough skin with a saw. Still, the words "the priest killed them" may sound horrible, but they are not being misused. The priest from Pogwizdów had been given the appropriate permission. He can cite a suitable letter at any time. But what sort of decision is this?
The priest achieved his goal. But for me, a priest who prefers the lifeless construction of a pompous fence to the cool greenness of majestic trees is a very poor priest.
reprinted from Zielone Brygady July '94
translated by Jacek Iwański