GB No. 2(17)/95


Few people know about that fight. I got to know about it some time ago. I was sitting in a charming pub near Babia Góra. Drinking beer, I was relishing the time lapse and browsing through a small booklet. [1] On page 91 I found a few sentences which astonished me so much that I couldn't believe my eyes. I looked at the bottle suspiciously but it was only beer and it had just been opened. Well? Well. what I saw was real. The sentences said: The Babia Góra mountain, 1725 m above the sea level

THE FIGHT FOR BABIA GÓRA FOREST began in September 1934 when the Polish Academy of Skills (PAU - Polska Akademia Umiejętności) in Kraków ordered,without telling anyone, a rapid tree felling in a magnificent fir and beech forest between Żarnówka and Mokry Staw under Górny Płaj. The forest, with many fir stands aged from 250 to 400 years, had earlier been chosen to be a reserve. The decision to fell the forest was made by the General Secretary of the Academy and suggested by the forest inspector of the PAU. At the last moment the forest was saved by the keeper of Markowe Szczawiny mountain hut. After he had been warned by Szczurek, his reliable forester, he sent a telegram to Professor Władysław Szafer, the chairperson of the National Council for Nature Protection (PROP - Państwowa Rada Ochrony Przyrody) just short of 24 hours before the beginning of the felling. Professor Szafer went to the General Secretary of the PAU immediately and made him cancel the decision by phone.

Later a question arose: what is more valuable for the nation? Is it the funds gained from the felling and spent on publishing a few papers, which will be put away into the graves of archives or is it the future of the forest in the national park?

This short quotation, whose source is "A Small Encyclopaedia of Babia Góra", is so concise and so brilliant that I could finish just here. But...

- Well, what is so astounding about it? - one could shrug. - Some people wanted to cut down part of a forest. Others were against it. The former lost. The latter won. A small local ecological episode. What is so astounding about it?

Well, here is the explanation. Both the attack and defence of the forest were astounding for me. Let's analyse it now.


It is the aggressor that astounds us. It was neither an ignorant peasant nor a greedy wood dealer nor a reckless reveller who had to settle a bad debt. It was an estimable institution - the Polish Academy of Science.

It is its inconsistency that astounds us. First, a reservation had been created and then a secret decision to fell the forest was made. And another astounding thing is PAU's motives. It can be said that the felling was planned from base, material motives (see the last paragraph). That is all about the attack on the forest. Now lets move on to the defence.


The most astounding fact is that so little means were used and so much was achieved. It took only three people: a forester, a mountain hut keeper and a professor. Three regular guys.

Besides, it becomes clear that Professor Szafer acted negatively while defending the forest. He protested, objected and opposed. And every protest is negative. Or at least our numerous so called positive ecologists promote this confusion. Their activities, which they call constructive or positive, in actual fact consist of taking subsidies, writing reports and doing nothing. First, it is most comfortable. Secondly, it is safest - when you do nothing you do not have trouble. Let me point out that doing nothing may mean various things: from running an office (a bureau for the attendance of ecological movements is the best) through workshops, courses (for ecowarriors - the best), seminars to conference and experts reports. All these activities have two things in common: they are costly and lead nowhere.

I think that if the fight for Babia Góra forest took place now it would not be possible. There would be no obstacles to felling the forest although there is an army of ecological non-government clerks, who perform their office work ritualistically and despite the tumult of seminars, conferences and workshops and in spite of ecowarriors, specially trained for Mother Earth. That's what I think. But it is possible to think differently and that is why I am proposing an alternative scenario:


The fight for Babia Góra forest took place in 1934. Suppose it took place now. Putting aside some Babia Góra facts, lets suppose that somebody wanted to fell primeval forest somewhere. And there was a forester, a mountain hut keeper and a professor - a chairperson of a green council. I wrote "a" green council because there are at least three such councils in Poland now - the National Council for Nature Protection (PROP - Państwowa Rada Ochrony Przyrody), the National Council for Environmental Protection (PROŚ - Państwowa Rada Ochrony Środowiska) and the Ecological Council attached to the President of Poland (Rada Ekologiczna przy Prezydencie RP). And now let's imagine what a chain of counteractions against felling primeval forest would look like. I have prepared three variants for the three people in order to make imagination work in a scientific way. Here they are:


What does the forester do after he gets to know about the planned felling?

  1. he acts in the same way as forester Szczurek in 1934 - that is he informs the mountain hut keeper quickly and efficiently;
  2. he makes light of it ("it is too late, the decision has been made), goes to a pub or put on his slippers and sits in front of the TV set where he can watch a film about nature (it is important to supplement one's education);
  3. he acts differently (how?).


What does the mountain keeper do after he is informed by the forester?

  1. he acts in the same way as the mountain hut keeper in 1934 i.e he informs the professor - the chairperson of the Council - quickly and efficiently;
  2. he is glad (Let them fell the forest! If they fell the forest a ski slope will be put in place, a ski lift and a road will be built and at last real tourists will come here instead of those trekkers with rucksacks. Obviously, he does not inform anybody;
  3. he acts differently (how?).


What does the professor - the chairperson of the Green Council do after he is informed by the mountain hut keeper?

  1. he acts in the same way as Professor Szafer in 1934 - that is he intervenes quickly and efficiently;
  2. he expresses (privately, of course) sympathy and compassion (what monstrous technocrats) and does nothing because he is very busy preparing an important report "There is no compromise in defending Mother Earth" for Ecological Earth Summit (one should think globally!);
  3. he acts differently (how?).

Caution! If anyone comes into an idea while analysing these variants they are welcomed to put it into words and make it known to public opinion.

I could finish here. But...


While writing this article I decided to get to know more about the fight for Babia Góra forest. I found a huge (over 300 pages) monograph entitled "Babia Góra National Park - Nature And Man" [2], prepared by the Institute for Protection of Nature and Natural Resources attached to the Polish Academy of Sciences (Zakład Ochrony Przyrody i Zasobów Naturalnych Polskiej Akademii Nauk) and published by National Scientific Publishers (PWN - Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe) in 1983. And another astounding...

Well, I got to know (the accuracy was to one hundredth of hectare) what the area of the reservation created in Babia Góra by PAU in 1933 was (it was exactly 642.22 ha). Unfortunately, neither the short historical introduction nor the chapter about forests, which had 20 pages and a historical introduction too, nor any part of the book contained any mention about the fight for Babia Góra forest and the inglorious role of the Polish Academy of Skills. Did it not take place? Did the authors know nothing about it? Or maybe they followed the principle "scientist does not eat scientist"?

Stanisław Zubek
reprinted from Zielone Brygady 1/95
Kraków, 22nd November, 1994


  1. "Small Encyclopaedia of Babia Góra", compiled by Władysław Midowicz, Pruszków 1992, Oficyna Wydawnicza "Rewasz".

    Władysław Midowicz had the idea to create Babia Góra National Park - he published a detailed plan in "Ochrona Przyrody" in 1928. In 1932 he became the keeper of Markowe Szczawiny mountain hut and it was he who delivered the message from forester Szczurek to Professor Szafer. It is worth mentioning that Babia Góra National Park was created in 1954 and 20 years later it was acknowledged to be a biosphere reserve.

    That is not common among national parks and proves that the park is exceptionally useful for scientific research. It is a paradox that the forest was planned to be felled by a scientific institution - Polish Academy of Skills. Exactly.

  2. "Babia Góra National Park - Nature and Man", compiled by Kazimierz Zabierowski, PWN, Warszawa-Kraków 1983.

GB No. 2(17)/95 | Contents