Poland ordered to pay 100,000 euro/day if it continues to destroy Bialowieza forest | WWF

Poland ordered to pay 100,000 euro/day if it continues to destroy Bialowieza forest

Posted on 20 November 2017
Bialowieza, one of Europe's last virgin forests
© Tomasz Wilk
Brussels/Luxembourg - Today, the EU Court of Justice decided to impose a daily penalty of EUR 100,000 on Poland if the government continues to defy a ban against logging activities in the EU protected Bialowieza Forest.  The Court also reiterated its order to immediately halt most logging activities in the forest except close to roads for safety reasons and until a final decision is taken. As one of the last remaining primeval forests in Europe, WWF fully supports the court’s decision to take a strong stand for forest protection to ensure the well-being and health of local wildlife and communities.
 
WWF has evidence that logging activities banned by the Court have taken place, like the extraction of over-100-years dead spruces and logging in the Bialowieza Forest District.
 
Dariusz Gatkowski, Biodiversity Specialist at WWF-Poland said:
 
“Polish citizens, most of them against logging in Bialowieza Forest, risk paying penalties if Polish authorities continue to ignore the official order by the European Court and all previous warnings by the European Commission and the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. The Court decision is a signal to the Polish Ministry of the Environment that disrespect for the law and our country’s valuable natural treasures cannot be tolerated.”

WWF also highlights that the case of Bialowieza is not isolated and that many other natural areas in Europe are similarly threatened due to illegal industrial activities and governments’ failure to properly apply and enforce national and European law.
 
Sabien Leemans, Senior Biodiversity Policy Officer at the WWF European Policy Office, added:

“Today’s court decision is an important signal for many other natural places and species threatened by national governments failing to comply with the EU Nature directives. It's time for the Commission to get much tougher toward these member states showing that any breach will have serious consequences to ensure governments focus on the long-term protection of these sites so that people and nature can both thrive.”

The EU Court of Justice’s decision to adopt so-called interim actions and to order the immediate stop of most logging activities is a measure the court uses in very rare cases when there is a serious risk that ongoing activities could cause serious and irreparable damage. This decision further confirms what the European Commission, UNESCO, most of the scientific community and WWF have previously underlined: increased wood extraction, not a bark beetle infestation, is threatening the protected habitats and species in Bialowieza Forest, and logging must be stopped immediately before irreversible damage occurs.
Bialowieza, one of Europe's last virgin forests
© Tomasz Wilk Enlarge