Česká verze

Don’t cut Central European heritage, the Białowieża Forest – people chanted in front of the Polish embassy, requesting action from minister Szyszko

14.8.2017, The Citizens’ Initiative for Cessation of Logging in the Białowieża Forest

140 people gathered at the Malostranské náměstí in Prague on Monday to express their concerns over the ongoing state-sanctioned logging in the Białowieża Forest. Planned extraction of over one million trees from the best preserved European lowland primeval forest has already been criticized by scientists, UNESCO, the European Commission and over 200 thousand people who signed several petitions.

Protesters at Malostranské náměstí calling for the suspension of logging in the Bialowieza Forest

Two weeks ago, the EU Court of Justice issued an interim measure which calls on Poland to immediately halt the logging pending the Court's decision. Although Poland may face a penalty of about 3.8 million euro, it ignores the interim measure. On the instruction of Polish environment minister Szyszko, four harvester machines continue extracting about 1500 trees a day from the area. So far, the total of 15 peaceful citizens' blockades of the forestry machinery has taken place, slowing down the destruction.

Citizens have gathered today at the Malostranské náměstí to express their discontent with the irreversible destruction of the last major lowland primeval forest remaining in Europe - a common central European heritage. At the demonstration, Greenpeace director for the Czech Republic, David Murphy; head of the Charles University Environment Centre, Prof. Jan Frouz; and researcher of the Global Change Research Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Prof. Pavel Kindlmann all spoke for the protection of the forest. Protesters called on the environment minister Jan Szyszko to stop the logging immediately.

People then spontaneously moved to the Polish embassy where they chanted: "Wilderness in Białowieża, not in politics!", "Make the whole forest a national park!", "Cut the he bark beetle nonsense, don't bulldoze the Białowieża!" or "Minister Szyszko, stop destroying one million trees!"

Tens of people come every day to the Białowieża Forest to prevent the harvesters from working. About one hundred Czech people, informed by the web page www.podporujiblokadu.cz, has set out for Poland since the beginning of June.

Jan Frouz, the director of the Charles University Environment Centre, said at the demonstration:

"Natural forests were covering our continent long before the humans started to exploit them. It might be surprising for some people that the main reason for their existence was not to maximize the production of planks but to sustain a long-term coexistence of a complex and interconnected biotic community of trees and a vast quantity of other organisms. With the destruction of this community, we will lose forever a unique opportunity to understand how such natural system worked."

Pavel Kindlmann, a researcher of the Global Change Research Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences (CzechGlobe), said at the demonstration:

"Despite the threat of 3.8-million-euro sanction, the juristic battle at the EU Court of Justice can take months to years. If we - and the EU at our initiative - will not act against this barbaric behaviour of the Polish government right now, a substantial part of this unique natural heritage will be gone in the meantime."

David Murphy, the Greenpeace director for the Czech Republic, said at the demonstration:

"The EU called on Poland to protect a primeval forest, which is important for the whole of Europe and is one of the globally significant ecosystems, so that we and the next generations would not be deprived of it. It is our duty, as good neighbours but also as individuals, to speak and to request survival and preservation of the Białowieża Forest."

Jan Skalík from the Citizens' Initiative for the Cessation of Logging in the Białowieża Forest said:

"If we do not want to lose the best preserved ancient European forest - home of the European bison, rare birds and centuries old trees, we have to show minister Szyszko that history will remember him as the man who destroyed the most beautiful primeval forest of Europe. If you care for the European heritage, you too can write to him!"

Contact information:

Mgr. Jan Skalík, jan.skalik@gmail.com, +420 607 185 686


The call for the preservation of natural heritage received by the Polish embassy:

Dear Polish friends,

The Białowieża Forest, unique in the whole Europe, has been growing in your country for thousands of years. It is home to European bison, but also wolves and protected species of birds and beetles. The oak-hornbeam flood forests of such outstanding beauty cannot be found anywhere else on our continent.

Although the European Court of Justice issued an interim measure in June requesting that the Polish government stopped logging in the best preserved European lowland primeval forest, minister Szyszko continues cutting more than 1500 trees a day. Although UNESCO warned that the World Natural Heritage is endangered, the earmarked one million trees are still being felled, and the area brutally destroyed, with four heavy harvester machines. Moreover, minister Szyszko is arrogant enough to offend our common European institutions. According to him, European officials couldn't tell a bark beetle from a frog.

However, minister's reasons are made up to cover up the real purpose. The forest is not being cut because of the bark beetle infestation - there are also oaks and hornbeams among the felled trees, which bark beetles do not attack. The logging is taking place even in the core protected areas with hundred-year-old trees where there is no danger of branches falling on visitors. The real purpose is clear: to monetize the wood and transform the last European lowland primeval forest into ordinary managed forest.

The situation in the forest is getting worse - more than 70 forest guards are now watching over the harvesters, which work daily in two shifts. Nevertheless, fifteen citizens' blockades in the last three months managed to slow down the logging temporarily thanks to the determination of Polish activists and other nationals. About two hundred thousand people signed the petition against the forest destruction.

We invite the citizens of Poland and other states to get involved and avert the destruction of the Białowieża Forest. The whole of the Białowieża Forest is a shared heritage of Central Europe. The whole of the Białowieża Forest should become a national park.

On behalf of the Citizens' Initiative,

Miroslava Rylko and Jan Skalík



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