GB No. 1(16)/95
It is very likely that Poland will deserve to be called the European barbarian of the end of the twentieth century. Puszcza Białowieska (Białowieża forest), the last natural lowland forest, will die before our very eyes. Although various bodies of people have made resolutions, about 10 several hundred years old oaks are cut down every day. The Ministry of Environmental Protection is personally responsible for that. The political situation in Poland, constant political turmoil, swindles and lack of respect for the law successfully divert our attention away from "less attractive" ecological issues. In January and February 1995 we witnessed extensive group cuttings (about 100m in diameter), where the last forest giants were felled. Since politicians are engaged in personal disputes and lack the will for protection of Puszcza Białowieska, since statements prove to be claptrap, we appeal to you to begin all possible, even most radical, actions in order to protect Puszcza Białowieska. Mr Prime Minister, we demand an immediate moratorium on felling all old trees in Puszcza Białowieska! We encourage ecological activists to prove their activity. There will be nothing to protect tomorrow. Write letters, go to the Ministry, go to the endangered forest, protect the trees in every possible way!
We accuse the Minister of Environmental Protection of intentional and conscious destroying Puszcza Białowieska in defiance of the opinion of the National Board for Nature Protection (Państwowa Rada Ochrony Przyrody - PROP), in defiance of the will of Polish society, in defiance of protests from ecological organisations from Poland and abroad.
Pracownia na Rzecz Wszystkich Istot
(Workshop for All Beings)
Bialowieża, l2th-l3th January, 1995
We, the participants of a common sesion with National Council for Nature Protection (PROP - Państwowa Rada Ochrony Przyrody), Committee of Nature Protection attached to Polish Academy of Sciences (KOP PAN - Komitet Ochrony Przyrody Polskiej Akademii Nauk), Scientific Council of Białowieski National Park (RNBPN - Rada Naukowa Białowieskiego Parku Narodowego) and the invited experts and guests, declare unanimously for enlarging Białowieski Park Narodowy so that it could cover the entire Polish part of Puszcza Białowieska, because only national park:
We appeal to the Parliament to acknowledge that protection of Puszcza Białowieska is a priority case in ecological policy of our country in the field of nature protection and to help in creating legal and material principles for fulfilling this task. We appeal especially for help in satisfying rightful claims and needs of inhabitants of the forest districts.
Chairperson of KOP PAN,
Prof. dr hab. Ludwik Tomiałojć,
a professor in the University of Warsaw
Chairperson of RN BPN,
prof. dr hab. Janusz B. Fallński,
a professor in the University of Warsaw
Chairperson of PROP,
prof. dr hab. Romuald Olaczek,
a professor in the University of Łódź
Protection of Puszcza Białowieska was the first task in the field of nature protection after Poland regained independence in 1918. In those days, founding national park and protecting old tree stands and forest fauna was moral and political duty for Poles. The range of protection was limited only by the legal status of that time, material resources of the state and the level of knowledge about nature protection. Protection of Puszcza Białowieska was task of major importance, which was confirmed by the appointment of Professor Józef Paczoski, an eminent scientist and the originator of phytosociology, to be the first manager of the national park.
Now, after 75 years from creating Białowieski National Park (BPN - Białowieski Park Narodowy), we see positive results of its protection and negative effects of negligence in protecting the rest of Puszcza Białowieska on the Polish side of the border. The former ones are: restoring naturalness of ecosystems in BPN; making it an important international workshop of scientific research - consolidating the position of BPN for Poles as an important natural heritage of humanity and for local community as an exceptional institution, which provides prestige and jobs. Another achievement was restoration of the European bison, which was pioneering work on world's scale. The fundamental negligence was that forest use of the rest of Puszcza Białowieska had damaging impact on its ecosystems and that is why the difference between the ecosystem of the BPN and the rest of the forest is far bigger than 75 years ago.
Scientific circles and part of public opinion have demanded to protect greater part of the national park. In 1975, under the pressure of this opinion, special rules of forest and hunting economy were introduced and several reserves were created, among them a reserve by the road from Hajnówka to Białowieża. It successfully hid vast clear cuts in those priceless forests.
Today we see again - and even more sharply than in the past - that the system of protecting Puszcza Białowieska is inadequate for the values which it still represents or which are possible to restore. Species and genetic standardisation is becoming common and the age of trees has lowered significantly. The forest has been cut with a dense system of roads. In spite of acknowledged principles exploiting timber is sometimes pillage economy and its victims are even nature monuments. There is no co-ordination between forest and hunting economy. Numerous sawmills, which have appeared on the edge of the forest, prove that the supply of timber is still large and encourage to increase its exploitation.
Evaluation of the present state of the forest shows that the decision about rules of forest economy, made by the Minister of Forestry and Timber Industry (Minister Leśnictwa i Przemysłu Drzewnego) in 1975, was not fully carried or maybe the rules were not suitable. This is an important warning against the illusion that new rules of forest economy will save the forest and restore naturalness of its ecosystems. The rules, which were introduced by the Minister of Environmental and Natural Resources Protection and Forestry (Minister Ochrony Środowiska, Zasobów Naturalnych i Leśnictwa) in his decision of 8th of November, 1994, makes the fate of Puszcza Białowieska dependent upon the same people and institutions whose former activities have come in for criticism and protest. People who deformed and degraded the forest will not keep the promise to restore "deformed and degraded parts of plant communities" all the more because they are under even greater economic pressure than they used to be. Nothing good can be expected from a document which decides in advance that trees will not be felled only on 20% of partial reserves. It infringes the nature protection resolution which states that the way of protecting nature should be settled for each reserve separately.
The League of Nature Protection thinks that not only autocratic foresters and hunters should decide on the future of Puszcza Białowieska because the forest belong to the whole society and its values are above interests of occupational groups. Moreover, the future should not be decided on the basis of a document which has been neither consulted with society nor opined by any bodies from beyond the circle of its authors. We think that Białowieski National Park is too small in its present boundaries and its usefulness, scientific prestige and give reasons for incorporating the entire Puszcza Białowieska into the national park, as in the Bielorussian part of the forest.
The League of Nature Protection asks the Cabinet and the Minister of Environmental and Natural Resources Protection and Forestry to:
The League is asking the Parliament of Poland, particularly the Committee of Environmental Protection (Komitet Ochrony Przyrody) to support the abovementioned postulates and patronise protecting of Puszcza Białowieska.
Let's not wait to protect Puszcza Białowieska until there is nothing to protect or the protection is forced by contestation of ecological organisations or social conflicts.
The League of Nature Protection - Main Board
(Liga Ochrony Przyrody - Zarzad Główny)
Reja 3I5, 00-922 Warszawa Warsaw. November 1994
reprinted from Zielone Brygady 3/95