GB No. 1(16)/95
Warsaw, 27th April, 1995
An international vigil to save the Białowieża forest in Poland, is as I write, in its second day. Activists visited the last remaining lowland temprate forest in Europe before returning to Warsaw to urge the Government to act to save the forest. One hundred activists from 14 different countries held a rally in the centre of the city before marching to the Prime Minister's building to hand in their demands and petitions. The forest is the last place in Europe where wild Lynx, Bison and Wolf can be found. Currently 47 km2 are under National Park protection out of a total area in Poland of 550 km2. Logging is accelerating in the area outside the park with clearfells of old oak and lime trees found near the park's perimeter. There is consensus amongst the Polish scientific community that the forest must be saved because of its unique bio-diversity. However the Government is to continue subsidising the logging which in the area is a loss making industry. The World Bank gave a loan of $146 million to increase productivity in the country's forestry sector and $27 million of this is earmarked for heavy machinery.
Theo Hopkins, one of three at the vigil arrested from England for sleeping on the grass said, "The last area of primeval temperate forest in Europe will be gone in a few years if the Polish Government doesn't act now!".
Spokepersons from the action camp were finally admitted at l0pm to meet with Mr. Borowski, Chief of the Council of Ministers. Sabina Nowak, Polish campaigner for the Workshop for All Beings said, "We presented the situation in the forest that he was not aware of and presented our proposal to expand the park".
Mr. Borowski agreed to discuss the matter with the Prime Minister including the possibility of an independent inquiry. However Borowski warned activists not to expect quick results on their ultimatum: "We started our meeting from the position of demanding an immediate moratorium on logging of old growth tree stands", said Grzegorz Kubicki of Polish group, Workshop for All Beings.
Activists remain concerned that the Government response was no more than a political delaying tactic and vowed to continue their vigil outside the building until they get more serious consideration of their demands. Police released those detained at 7am this morning.
The campaign is taking off to save the forest with interest already from: Polish, Slovak, British and US groups vowing to save the forest. EYFA will be campaigning on the issue in the coming months to get in touch and get active.
Letters and faxes are urgently needed to put pressure on the Polish Government: The Prime Minister of Poland, fax: 48/2/628.4222 Mr. Borowski, Chief of the Council of Ministers, fax: 48/221413.981 Send copies of your letters to: Workshop for All Beings ("Pracownia na Rzecz Wszystkich Istot"), ul. Modrzewskiego 2913, 43-300 Bielsko-Biala, Poland, tel/fax 481301294.96
Upcoming forest campaign meetings and actions:
European Youth For(est) Action - EYFA
Postbus 94115, 1090 GC Amsterdam
tel./fax 31/201665.77.43, e-mail: email@example.com
The Prime Minister and the Minister of Environmental Protection have received several thousand of letters and over 100,000 signatures under the petition for creating national park in the entire Polish part of Puszcza Białowieska.
After the ministers decision to create the three zones in Puszcza Białowieska had been carried into effect several felled giant oaks were photographed.
The manager of Regional Headquarters of National Forests (RDLP - Regionalna Dyrekcja Lasów Państwowych) advised forest divisions of Hajnówka, Browsk and Białowieża to stop clear cutting in the first zone (within the promotional forest complex in Puszcza Białowieska) apart from sanitation and improvement cuttings and placed some restrictions on felling old trees. In the second zone he allowed wavy-lined clear cutting and placed restrictions on felling the oldest trees.
Over 90% of the forest is still under the administration of National Forests (Lasy Państwowe). Although at present RDLP declares proecological and proforest policy there is a real danger that public opinion will lose interest in the problems of the forest and make way for extensive exploitation of the forest. The decisions on restrictions in forest economy, which are being made now, concern only the most drastic measures, are not identical with restrictions of national park protection and may be cancelled at any moment.
There are several well-equipped joiners shops and furniture makers around Puszcza Białowieska. They are owned by exworkers from National Forests, who know the tree stands well and are among the main recipients of oakwood, ashwood and alderwood. Their products go to Germany, Holland, Denmark, Austria and the Union of Independent Countries. The shops have developed a lot lately and are very profitable. Their owners are protesting energetically against protecting the forest and are the most opposed part of local community, together with the foresters from the forest divisions. Mrs Anna Bajko, the administer of Białowieża territorial division, seems to have a similar attitude. During a session of National Council for Environmental Protection (PROP - Państwowa Rada Ochrony Przyrody) she pointed out that there was danger of setting fire to the forest by "unidentified resistance forces" unless attempts to create extend the national park are continued. It is a convincing argument but it is strange to hear this from an official. It is inadmissible for an official to threaten with terrorist action.
The co-ordinator of the campaign is:
Pracownia na Rzecz Wszystkich Istot
(Workshop For All Beings)
Direct information from Białowieża:
Jesper Petersen, Anna Adhemar
phone 451353.71.423, fax 451313.85.616
(Białowieża International Support Organisations Network)
Grzegorz Kubicki: phone 60412478434
reprinted from Zielone Brygady 3/95
Editor's note: All pictures come from the action of Pracownia na Rzecz Wszystkich Istot in Warsaw at the end of May.