On July 5, the General Director of the National Forests in Poland signed a document declaring an immediate moratorium on logging of old growth trees in the entire area of the Bialowieza Primeval Forest. The decision comes amid mounting pressure from NGOs, forest activists, and scientists world wide to protect Europe's last lowland old-growth forest. Bialowieza is the last wild habitat of the European bison; it is also home to wolf, lynx, beaver, masked shrew, moose, crane, lesser-spotted eagle, black stork and all but one of the European woodpeckers. (see DoD 4).
In April the International Bialowieza Campaign held actions at the government buildings in Warsaw. While just over a dozen activists locked down the entrance of the Ministry of Agriculture, three others gained entrance to the plush office of Staanislaw Zelichowski - Minister of the Environment. Refusing to leave they were dragged out by Warsaw Policja. Outside the Ministry, blockaders were cut out after a long struggle successfully trapping the Minister's car and delaying his speaking engagement before the Polish Parliament. Although several activists were taken to the Warsaw police station, none was charged. This action followed a three-day vigil and encampment outside the Polish Parliament set up after 100 marched on the Prime Minister’s office. Activists (some from Britain), visited the forest site itself and a debate was held with the local villagers. However communication between the villagers and many activists was limited due to the language barrier. The actions set off large media coverage and were greatly responsible for a political turnaround which started on May 11th when the Polish Senate passed a resolution to protect the forest. After increasing internal and external pressure the government signed the moratorium two months later.
The Polish group, Workshop for all Beings, has been a central organiser of the campaign for a logging moratorium. Spokesperson Janusz Korbel reacted cautiously to the announcement: "We must look at this decision carefully but it seems that this is a big success for the International Campaign. The next step should be National Park status in the total forest area".
The document states that no oaks, the most desirable hardwood in Bialowieza, over 60cm in diameter may be logged as well as lime, maple, and ash of similar sizes. Rare species of trees descended from native species and appearing in fixed forms, such as fir, cherry, apple, and elm received complete protection 'regardless of age and condition.' The Workshop for all Beings had estimated that the remaining old growth would have disappeared within three or four years at current logging levels prior to the moratorium.
The logging moratorium is the first of two demands set forth by the International Bialowieza Campaign to be met by Polish Government. The second demand is to set aside the entire area as a fully protected National Park. Currently, only a tiny portion of the forest has national park status. The logging moratorium gives us a lot of breathing room, but no one campaigning can rest until it is permanently protected as a national park.
Faxes and letters demanding that the Polish government upgrade the WHOLE of the forest to a National Park should he sent to:
The Prime Minister, Josef Oleksy, Ursad Rady Ministrow 00-902, Warsaw, Poland. +4526284222
For info on the campaign in Britain write to Avon Gorge EF! The address for the Workshop for all Beings is in the contact list at the back of this issue.