Activists protest logging in Poland's ancient forest

WARSAW, , (Pakistan Point News - APP - 24th May, 2017 ) - Activists chained themselves to logging equipment in Poland's ancient Bialowieza forest on Wednesday, accusing authorities of felling trees in protected areas of the UNESCO World Heritage site.

The move comes after a "final warning" by the European Commission sent to Warsaw in April saying it could take legal action to halt large-scale logging in Europe's last primeval woodland. Dawid Kazmierczak, an activist with Wild Poland said that their patrols "proved that logging had started in the oldest and most valuable parts of the forest" that are protected.

"Stop the logging in the Bialowieza Forest" read a banner protesters strung up between two trees over heavy logging equipment standing idle, photographs issued by the activists on Wednesday showed.

"We're in the forest to stop its destruction caused by the scandalous decisions of (Environment) Minister Jan Szyszko," Greenpeace Polska activist Robert Cyglicki said in a statement adding that the minister "treats the forest like a tree plantation".

The Polish government began logging in May last year, saying it was clearing dead trees to contain damage caused by a spruce bark beetle infestation, and insisting the policy was entirely legal.

Scientists, ecologists and the EU protested the move in the ancient woodland and activists now allege that it is being used as a cover for the commercial logging of protected old-growth forests.

In late April, the EU's executive branch -- the European Commision -- gave Polish authorities one month rather than the usual two to address its concerns about the forest or face being summoned by the EU's top court, citing the "urgency of the situation".

The EU is also concerned the logging will cause irreparable loss of biodiversity in the woodland that belongs to the EU's Natura 2000 network of protected areas. Poland defends the wood-cutting, calling it "protective" or "salvage" logging to stop an insect infestation, preserve road traffic and fight forest fire risks.

But dozens of top scientists specialising in forest ecosystems and biodiversity have demanding and end to the logging. Participants in the 2nd International Conference on Forest held in April in Neuschonau, Germany, cited world-class studies in an open letter to Minister Szyszko proving that "biodiversity does not benefit from salvage logging".

They concluded that in Bialowieza "the removal of spruce attacked by bark beetles endangers this old-growth forest". The vast woodland straddling the border with Belarus includes one of the largest surviving parts of the primeval forest that covered the European plain ten thousand years ago.

It is now home to unique plant and animal life, including a herd of some 800 European bison, the continent's largest mammal.

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