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Logging in Bialowieza Forest illegal, EU Court of Justice rules

Bialowieza forest, Poland. © Adam Lawnik
Bialowieza forest, Poland. © Adam Lawnik

The European Court of Justice of the European Union has issued a final judgement in which it confirms that it was illegal to increase logging in the  Bialowieza  Forest in Poland. WWF welcomes today’s decision of the court.

Responding to the judgement, Andreas Baumueller, Head of Natural Resources at the WWF European Policy Office, said: 

“Today is a clear victory for Europe’s wildlife. Nature cannot be ignored and neither can EU law. Polish environment minister Kowalczyk must withdraw the decisions that allowed this intensive logging. His task is to protect, safe and guarantee Białowieża’s wildlife for future generations.”

Dariusz Gatkowski, Biodiversity Specialist at WWF-Poland said:

“This is a great win for the Polish people who consider the Białowieża Forest an intrinsic part of our heritage. But the actions and legal violations that led to the ruling are an important reminder that our efforts cannot stop here. The Białowieża national park must be extended to protect one of the last natural forests in Europe"

“On the eve of World Heritage Day, the ruling demonstrates that we have to continually work to ensure that leaders, and society as a whole, act to protect our planet’s incredible natural places that sustain our lives, the planet and its wildlife,” he added.

In February 2018, the Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the European Union issued an opinion in which he confirmed that the logging of the forest was unlawful.

 Bialowieza  forest is protected by EU nature laws and has been classified both as a UNESCO World Heritage and EU Natura 2000 site because of its ongoing natural processes, richness of dead wood and astonishing biodiversity. This last major primeval European forest harbours the largest European bison population and is home to lynx, wolves and ancient trees. Despite this, Jan Szyszko (former Polish Minister of Environment) decided to allow industrial-scale logging and tripled the amount of permitted logging in Białowieża forest district in 2016, a decision that has now been ruled as being in breach of the EU nature laws.

WWF calls on Polish Environment Minister Henryk Kowalczyk to immediately adopt the ruling. Today’s decision is a clear sign to all decision-makers that opening World Heritage Sites for destructive and unsustainable activities is not acceptable, for people, institutions and the planet, and that EU laws protecting these sites cannot be ignored. 

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