Save the Bia這wie瘸 Forest

The first thing that strikes a visitor on seeing the Bia這wie瘸 Forest is the terrific size of the old trees. They are twice as tall and twice as thick as those in other European forests. How in this day and age, have the Bia這wie瘸 trees managed to reach these grandiose proportions? The reason is, that the Bia這wie瘸 Forest was reserved as a hunting ground for the Polish kings, already in the XV century. The royal forest service, over 200 officials, were settled on the outskirts of the Forest to protect it. Whereas the rest of Europe started turning wild primeval forests into commercial enterprises 200 years ago. Large-scale logging operations in Bia這wie瘸 only began during the first World War, under German occupation. Unfortunately, the situation has been deteriorating drastically over the last 80 years. Exploitation is rapidly transforming the Bia這wie瘸 Forest into yet another modem commercial forest.

Only here and there has Nature been preserved in her original form. This last vestige of the Europe- an primeval forest must be preserved at all costs. Once destroyed, the natural forest can never be restored.

The Bia這wie瘸 Forest covers an area of 1500 sq. km, of which 40% is in Poland and the rest in Belarus. The Polish part is home to 62 mammalian species, the most famous being the European bison. Thanks to persistent efforts to save this species from extinction, today there are about 260 individuals playing their role as a natural factor of the forest environment. Bia這wie瘸 is the last European lowland forest where a complete food- chain functions without human intervention. Wolves kill about 600 red deer a year, with no danger to the survival of the total population. The bird community counts 177 nesting species, among which 107 are specifically forest species. By comparison there are only 75 forest species in the whole of Great Britain.

Logging constitutes a mortal threat to several of the Biatowic瘸 bird species whose existence depends on the conservation of very large surfaces of old-growths. One breeding pair of white-backed woodpeckers require a territory of 1- 1,5 sq. km. Logging and hunting have already led to the extinction of the capercaillie in the Polish part of the Bia這wie瘸 Forest.

As in other land ecosystems, insects play an enormous role in the life of the Bia這wie瘸 Forest. This group is estimated at10,000 species. Among these arc species associated with very old and thick trees, for instance, the ultra rare long-homed beetle Stictoleptura varricornis. For some species this forest is the only refuge in Europe and any changes in the character of the forest caused by commercial forest management can lead to the irreversible loss of many insects and other species. Nature reserves and parks form only 2% of woodland in Po- land. The Polish part of the Bia這wie瘸 Forest is a mere 0.7% of all Polish forests. Yet, logging is still carried out in over 80% of the Bia這wie瘸 Forest.

All official authorities of the Polish Nature Conservancy and relevant parliamentary commissions urgently point to the need to protect the whole area, and 300,000 letters of protest have been sent by concerned citizens to the Polish government. Sadly, these demands have been met with strong opposition on the part of officials representing the logging lobby, who insist that Poland cannot afford to give up timber production in the Bia這wie瘸 Forest. Although the Forestry Administration claim that they can reconcile timber production with na- ture protection, the transformation of Bia這wie瘸 Forest over the past 20 to 30 years is irrefutable proof that natural forests cannot provide profitable timber production.

The Bia這wie瘸 Forest Protection Society, formed in Poland in October 1995, wants to persuade the Polish government, first, to decree an immediate ban on timber-cutting in all areas of natural and semi-natural character in the Forest and to declare the whole part of the Polish Bia這wie瘸 Forest a National Park. Such protection would make possible the continuation of natural processes in the hitherto undisturbed portions of the Forest and allow the undertaking of suitable action to initiate restorative processes in the remainder.

However the Bia這wie瘸 Forest is not the responsibility of the Polish government alone. Negotiations on common policy will obviously have to be undertaken with the Belarus government. Not only that. One of these days Poland will enter the European Union. When that happens, it will become clear to us that the Bialowie瘸 Forest belongs not only to Poland but to all of Europe. It is up to us, Europeans, to take care of it. Let us preserve this unique treasure for the good of our continent and indeed for the good of our whole planet.

If, after reading the above manifesto, you are convinced that the Bia這wie瘸 Forest is a natural treasure of the world and as such belongs to all peoples, please write a letter of protest (the pattern included) to Mr A. Kwaniewski, the President of the Polish Republic or to Mr W. Cimoszewicz, the Prime Minister.

The Coalition for the Bia這wie瘸 Forest Protection

The Coalition for the Bia這wie瘸 Forest Protection claims an:

TOPB co-ordinates the action of the Coalition for the Bia這wie瘸 Forest Protection, enrolling major ecological NGOs in Poland.

What do we call now?

Although the Forestry Administration claim that they can reconcile timber production with Nature protection, the transformation of Bialowie瘸 Forest over the past 20-30 years is irrefutable proof that natural forests cannot provide profitable timber production without having lost its naturalness.

To save Bia這wie瘸 forest it is necessary to protect the whole area in the best possible form. According to the Polish law, the best form of nature protection is granted to areas declared as national parks. All human activities within the national parks have to be subordinated to the demands of nature conservation. The national park covering the whole Polish part of Bialowie瘸 Forest will secure the continuation of natural processes ongoing in all remnants of natural communities and will allow the undertaking of suitable activities in order to initiate and accelerate restorative processes in stands disturbed by man.


Poland - forests (in hectares)
All Polish forests: 8,586,000.00 (28 % of Poland's area)
Forest nature reserves and national parks: 213,719.4 (28 % of forest area)
Strict forest reserves:53,011.00 (28 % of forest area)

Bialowie瘸 Forest area (in hectares)
The whole Bialowie瘸 Forest (BF):150,582.00
Polish part of BF:63,219.00 (0.7% of Polish forest area)
Belarussian part:87,363.00 (since 1991 State NP)
Bialowie瘸 National Park (BNP):10,501.95 (16.6% of the Polish part)
20 nature reserves outside BNP:3,445.76 (5.4% of the Polish part)
90 protection zones around the nests of raptors and black storks: 1,130.40 (1.8% of the Polish part)
Area under different kinds of protection: 15,078.11 (23.8% of the Polish part)
Area under strict protection in the Polish p: ca. 48 km2 (7.6% of the Polish part)
Area under strict protection in the Belarussian part: ca. 157 km2 (18% of the Belarussian part)

Basic forest inventory data (1989-1991)

Bialowieza National Park

(strict reserve)
Managed part of Bialowie瘸 Forest
Average age of treestands [yrs]
130
72
Timber stand volume [m3/ha]
410
266
Annual increment [m3/ha]
3.3
3.7

Species richness of BF (Polish part only)
number of species
Vascular plantsca. 1,000
Bryophytes254
Lichens334
Fungica.4,000
Trees26
Shrubs55
Mammals62 (with ca.260 bison)
Birds228
Reptiles7
Amphibians12
Insectsca.10,000
Types of natural communities25
Types of forest communities16

 According to the available data, stands of over 100 years-old, occupy 20-30% of the area of

the Polish part of the BF (sec the map).

 Because there was no regular logging in the Forest before 1915, the remaining old-growths

should be recognised as natural or semi-natural (if moderately disturbed through selective

cuttings) portions of the BF.

 Investigations carried out in BNP shows that in natural forests, the young phase occupy 20-

35%, optimal phase 35-45%, and terminal phase 20-30% of the natural forest area.

 In order to protect the exceptional character of Bia這wie瘸 Forest, and restore natural

balance and dynamics of the whole Bia這wie瘸 Forest, all the remaining oldgrowths should

be unconditionally preserved.