This week, European Greens co-chair and MEP Thomas Waitz took a trip to Poland to visit the Białowieża forest. As an organic farmer, forester, and beekeeper, the issue of biodiversity is central to his political programme, as well as to that of the European Green Party.
The Białowieża forest is the only primeval low land forest under UNESCO World Heritage protection in the EU and one of the few forests in the continent housing native European wood bison. Waitz spent the weekend meeting with Polish Greens MP Urszula Zielińska and the party's co-chairs Małgorzata Tracz and Wojciech Kubalewski. They met with journalist Adam Wajrak from Gazeta Wyborcza, who is also a resident of the Białowieża forest. The group also visited different parts of the forest with Adam Bohdan from the Dzika Polska Foundation and Professor Rafał Kowalczyk, a Polish forester and ecologist who is a specialist in the field of animal ecology and is the director of the Mammal Research Institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences.
This weekend I am in Białowieża Forest in Poland, meeting local scientists and activists.— Thomas Waitz (@thomaswaitz) April 25, 2021
Białowieża is one of the last and largest remaining parts of the immense primeval forest that once stretched across the European Plain. Protecting it is critical for EU biodiversity! https://t.co/QfQiDm0kPm
Białowieża forest: a stronghold of biodiversity and part of our shared heritage
Białowieża forest lies on the border between Poland and Belarus, on the watershed of the Baltic Sea and Black Sea. Covering a total area of 141,885 hectares, it is an immense and a unique area of biodiversity. As a primary forest, it has attained great age without significant disturbance and therefore hosts a wide variety of wildlife. Due to its large and elder trees such as conifers and broadleaved trees, the area also functions as an effective carbon sink. The forest is not only crucial for the preservation of biodiversity; it also constitutes part of our shared heritage on Earth. Due to its significance, it is both an EU Natura 2000 Special Area of Conservation and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its deterioration or disappearance would therefore constitute a "harmful impoverishment of the heritage of all the nations of the world."
The European Union has stepped up its ambitions on protecting biodiversity and has committed to ensuring that the 'no harm principle' covers forests. But logging has continued in the area and further cutting is being envisioned as further annexes into the territory have been allowed by the Polish government. Conducting logging activities in ancient growth areas is against EU legislation and immensely detrimental to biodiversity. Existing EU directives on the protection of birds and of natural habitats, as well as the EU's biodiversity package, should mean that the Białowieża forest remains free from logging and any other activities that could disturb this valuable ecosystem.
Białowieża forest has survived thanks to the previous efforts that have been made by local, national and European civil society to protect it over the ages. We must continue to safeguard it from interests that may seek to destroy this vital area for biodiversity conservation. Protecting old-growth forests like the Białowieża forest is a critical part of the Greens' goal towards fighting the climate crisis and safeguarding our planet for future generations. As Thomas Waitz stated during his visit to the forest with MP Urszula Zielińska: "If we take the biodiversity strategy and forest management plan seriously, then this type of forest must be strictly protected."
💬To jest unikatowy obszar różnorodności biologicznej. To unikatowe dziedzictwo nie tylko polskie, ale i europejskie. Jeśli potraktujemy na poważnie strategię różnorodności biologicznej i plan urządzania lasu, to taki typ lasu musi podlegać ścisłej ochronie - @thomaswaitz pic.twitter.com/T79umw6nWm— Urszula Sara Zielińska 🌻 (@Ula_Zielinska) April 27, 2021