GB No. 2(21)/96



On the 18th of July 1996, the Chairman of the Ministerial Council signed a regulation about enlargement of the Białowieża National Park by 5155 ha. The decision has been valid since 30 July 1996.

Enlargement of BNP is the most important event in the history of the Białowieża Primeval Forest since the establishment of the Forest District Reserve in 1921 (later renamed the National Park). The area of the reserve created in 1921, about 47 km2, remained unchanged for 75 years, despite efforts of prominent naturalists (e.g. Prof. Władysław Szafer). During the years the so-called managed part of the forest (i.e. after World War II over 90% of the Polish part of the Primeval Forest) has been subjected to deep changes resulting from forestial industry.

All the naturalists that know the Primeval Forest agree that the only chance to save its last natural fragments and to restore the altered forest environment its natural character may be to give up industrial usage of the forest. The primary aim to achieve, as far as the Białowieża Primeval Forest is concerned, is its protection. Any other enterprises concerning the forest should also be subjected to that.

According to the Society for Protection of the Białowieża Primeval Forest, as well as thousands of people involved in the campaign for enlarging BPF, only the status of a national park may formally secure the appropriate attitude to the problems of Forest management and survival of the last natural lowland forest in Europe. photo 1

The National Park should cover the area of the whole BPF, i.e. about 647 km2. The present enlarged National Park makes up less than 16% of the area. Numerous data concerning location of natural mature forests and rare plant and animal species indicate that no alternative solutions, such as local relaxing of protection schemes according to the decreasing distance to the core, the "old" BPF, are possible. The most precious parts of the Primeval Forest are scattered irregularly: in the closest neighbourhood of the strict reserve or along the edges of the forest.

We can understand economic, organisational and sociological arguments put forward by the advocates of gradually increasing protection of BPF. However, we cannot agree that the enlargement of BPF is a sort of compromise between environmentalists and foresters. The Białowieża Primeval Forest cannot be a subject of any compromise. For us and for all who love our native nature, the enlargement of BPF is only a small, though very important step, towards protection of the whole Forest. Certainly, appropriate and wisely treated enlargement of it may become a catalyst of the process aimed at providing the whole BPF with the highest form of protection. photo 2

The BPF is enlarged by an area located to the north of its borders and a narrow strip along the western border. It gains well-preserved environments of pine and pine-fir patches (there was none of the former in the "old" Park) as well as young growth and deformed stands. In the Park, the people who have been employed there for years by the State Forests work, with their old habits and specific "industrial" attitudes towards the woods. BPF ceased to be an easy-to-manage enclosed strict reserve. The enlargement means problems shared by all other "normal" national parks in Poland. The great responsibility lies in the hands of Białowieża National Park administration. These people will decide what will appear on the Park's carte blanche. Will they be paralysed by the problems or rather stimulated to constructive action? The enlargement of BPF creates an opportunity of changing the image of the National Park among the local community - from an enclosed reserve for scientists to a park one can live in and profit from.

Andrzej Bobiec
reprinted from Zielone Brygady, Nov. '96
transl. M. Maciejewska

GB No. 2(21)/96 | Contents