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Host of World Heritage meeting failing to protect own forest

Krakow, Poland – WEBWIRE

A protest organised by a coalition of environmental NGOs in Poland today outside the 41st session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee shed light on the plight of the host country’s ancient Białowieża Forest, which is under serious threat of large-scale logging.
WWF took part in the protest, and continues to urge the Committee delegates to be vigilant to attempts to weaken the protections for Białowieża Forest. WWF highlights the danger logging poses to the irreplaceable value of the site, which is scheduled to be discussed on Wednesday at the UNESCO meeting.
It is extremely concerning that an area recognized as having such outstanding value can so easily come under threat. The Polish minister of the environment is disregarding the concern of its own people - clearly voiced by the protest here - in order to pursue its own agenda.” said Aslihan Tumer, Head of Global Campaigns at WWF International.
The Białowieża Forest World Heritage site lies on the border between Poland and Belarus and covers an area of over 140,000 hectares. Home to thousands of species including the largest population of European bison, it has been described by UNESCO as an “irreplaceable area for biodiversity conservation.”
“Europe’s best preserved ancient forest is facing an existential threat. We should be doing everything we can to protect it, not opening it up for intensified logging. We urge the Polish government to stop logging and safeguard Białowieża for future generations and stand by its UNESCO commitments,” said Dariusz Gatkowski, Biodiversity Policy Specialist, WWF-Poland.
WWF reiterates the role of the World Heritage Committee in protecting recognized sites and the danger posed by over-politicization. In 2016, a number of advisory body recommendations on the necessary protection for Białowieża Forest were ignored when Committee decisions were taken.
Other sites of concern are Dońana National Park, Selous Game Reserve, and Western Caucasus. WWF fears that the Committee may be influenced to weaken the demands it places on the relevant governments responsible for the protection of these special places.
“We call on the World Heritage Committee to uphold their role as the guardians of these remarkable sites,” added Tumer.

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