GB No. 4, spring 1991
In 1968 professor Adam Palczyński put forward a plan to create Biebrza National Park. The Landscape Reserve and Biebrza Landscape Park (set up in 1989) prove only that Pałczyński's idea has not materialized. 22 years have been wasted on creating something that still scarcely exists. Although the protected areas have their own rangers and a Research Council they are inefficient. The rangers and the Environmental wardens are responsible only to the Environment Protection Department of the Voivodship. Two full-time workers in an area of 90,000 hectares sounds ridiculons. There is hardly any money for their salaries. As for the Research Council you cannot tell much about it except that it exists. The same applies to the Biebrza Association. In short: no action, just words.
At the turn of 19th century the first canals were constructed (Augustów, Woźnawieś, Ruda, Kapie) and the Kuwasy marshes drained. After the Second World War the Wizna and Modzelówka swamps near the Narew were drained and some of the Biebrza's tributaries regulated. Some of those works were completed just before Biebrza Landscape Park came into being, eg. the regulation of the Wissa, the main southern tributary of the basin and drainage works near Polkowo, which resulted in the water level falling in the Czerwone Bagno Reserve. No more damage has been done since the area became officially protected.
In 1988 ornithologists carrying out research on the central basin spotted a fresh excavation pit near Kuligi. The excavations were continued in Spring 1989. In Winter 1989/90 a rally of the Lovers of the Biebrza Marshes took place with Mr Krzysztof Wolfram from "Zielone Płuca Polski" (Green Lungs of Poland) as one of the participants. He made a speech on the urgency of rescuing North-eastern Poland and particulary the Biebrza region.
In response, a young boy told about the excavations he had seen and asked for some action to be taken. Mr. Wolfram laughed at him and said there could not have been any such excavations in the Park. He did not bother to check it himself. Reports by the North Podlesie Birds Protection Association confirm the excavations went on in the vicinity of Kuligi and Ciszewo in 1989 and 1990. In March 1990 Mr. Wolfram walked out of an Association meeting to protest the breaching of the subject of the mysterious works (at the time he was organizing the National Fund for Environment Protection but its purpose was unclear).
The Association warned the Environmental Protection Departament of the Voivodship in Łomża of the problem. The Departament took action only after having been prompted and the press had become mildly interested. The issue was eventually taken up by the local Environmental Warden, the representatives of the local government and the Chief Board of Supervision. As a result the building machines were removed, but the fish-ponds and dykes remained untouched, allegedly harmless to their neighbourhood.
So far no expert has made any research on the water. It is important that the works were carried out within the boundaries of the Park despite the Act that brought in into being. Blame rests on the local farmers who commisioned the excavations without appropriate approval. The matter was taken to the public prosecutor's office. It is now stuck there. It is said that the matter is being handled delicately, lest farmers be antagonized by the fully-fledged national park soon to be created.
On the other hand one may argue that such a compromise is not the way to protect the marshes. Last spring I visited the scene of the excavations. Water could be found only in the river while it had completely disappeared from the lakes and swamps. I walked for a few miles without seeing a single duck or pewit. Only a couple of years ago that place was inhabited by countless waterfoul. The drainage of the riverbasins of two of the Biebrza's tributaries, Jerzmia and Ełk probably accounts for this.
The network of dykes carries away the water from the spring runoff leaving the whole area dry.
Between the 13-18 September 1990 direct action was taken to stop the flow of water through the dykes. It was organized by myself and Radek Kisielewski from the Animal Liberation Movement (now Community of All Beings) and the Scout Movement of the Environmental Protection of Saint Francis of Assisi. On the day before the action a meeting of the farmers, the head ranger, the Environmental Warden, the North Podlesie Birds Protection Association and the local goverment represented by an expert showed that the farmers were a business-minded people unconcerned with the law, not to mention the Biebrza or ecological problems in general. We concluded that nothing would stop them from draining the marches.
On the 19 September 1990, while visiting the Czerwone Bagno Reserve, we ran into an excavator. From talks with the local farmers we gathered that the excavations had been commisioned by the Suwałki Voivodeship. It must be stressed that the excavator operated within the boundaries of Biebrza Landscape Park and in the vicinity of the Reserve constituting the heritage of perishing nature. The head ranger knows nothing of any excavations going on. Who allowed such a preposterous thing to take place, then? We are going to talk to the Environmental Warden in Suwałki. We have put dams on 3 of the dykes. We could not manage more with only 40 volunteers mainly from the Scout Movement of Environment Protection.
Please get in touch with me if you want to exchange opinions and information on what is going in the Biebrza valley or would like to take part in immobilizing the excavator.
ZB No 10/90
translation Andrzej Stobierski