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Published December 5, 2007 09:08 AM

Protecting old-growth forests in Poland

Warsaw, Poland – Over 100,000 signatures have been forwarded to the Polish government, calling for the protection of Europe’s last remaining stands of natural forests.

The signature drive is part of a WWF campaign to safeguard ancient woodlands in Poland’s Bialowieza Primaeval Forest from logging and other unsustainable forest activities.

In February 2007, a report by Poland’s public audit body, the Supreme Chamber of Control, exposed inadequacies concerning forest management in the country’s most valuable forest areas. In October 2007, the Council of Europe suspended the European Diploma of Protected Areas awarded to the Bialowieza National Park because of lack of sufficient protection.

Also in 2007, the Forest Stewardship Council — an international, non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring environmentally responsible forest management — suspended certification for this region for similar reasons.

“For years, Polish politicians have been passively looking on as the degradation of this unique woodland continued,” said Ireneusz Chojnacki, WWF-Poland’s Programme Director. “Today, they may well have a one-time opportunity to do something about it.”

A special task force set up by Poland’s President, Lech Kaczynski has already drafted legislation to ensure protection of the forest, including extending the Bialowieza National Forest to encompass currently unprotected ancient forest strands. As part of the legislation, a special socio-economic programme has been planned to promote sustainable tourism for local communities living near the forest.

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“Over 100,000 people demand that this legislative initiative be accepted by the president and then voted upon by the Polish Parliament,” added Chojnacki.

Home to lynx, wolves and other wildlife, the Bialowieza Forest is the last natural forest on the Central European lowland. Although it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, together with the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park on the Belarus side, only 17% of the Polish area of the forest is protected as a national park.

The WWF campaign is aimed at improving the level of protection of the old-growth, primeval forests in and around the park.

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