The Bialowieza forest:

With a unique ecosystem in the world, Bialowieza, the oldest primary forest in Europe is yet in danger. Located between north-eastern Poland and Belarus, this green paradise is threatened by illegal tree cutting.

Bialowieza by Puri Martínez

Its protection is needed for several reasons
Formed in the first ice age, nearly 10 000 years ago, this unique forest holds treasures and secrets for scientists and ecologists.A forest is described as primary when it has few traces of human presence. As a result, ecological processes are not disturbed. Its observation then helps understanding how a forest works naturally. Very few primary forests have survived in Europe. Because of its size and the animal species it contains, such as the last European Bison, Bialowieza is an absolutely unique observatory of nature. It is therefore necessary to preserve it.In addition, the site is classified as a UNESCO heritage site and is recognized as a natura 2000 zone. These elements give the forest a specific protection status.

Cut wood to turn it into heat
Since 2015, a new forest management plan has been put in place. Unfortunately, following this, a large amount of trees was extracted to finish in the wood boilers. Sometimes even trees of over 100 years old were cut in this process. The Polish government and the Ministry of the Environment have argued that cuts are necessary because of sanitary or security reasons. The sanitary reason advanced is an infestation of bark beetle, a small parasite, which has spread on the trunks of the trees. It is therefore necessary to cut the affected trees to limit the infection. On the other hand, tree cutting is organized for the purpose of maintaining safety. The probability of a tree falling on pedestrian paths is considered as too risky.

The preservation of the forest, a point discords
The reasons for this massive cut of trees do not reach consensus. Some scientists believe that human being does not have to intervene in this process. The forest itself will restore balance. Furthermore, dead wood should not be removed. It enriches soils, leading to the development of a wide variety of fungi and invertebrates. Moreover, the felling of trees disrupts the life cycles of certain animals and occupation by wood harvesting machinery causes a lot of inconvenience.

Bialowieza by Steve the Cab

Illegal cutting: when the government goes against the decisions of the European Court of Justice
The Polish conservative government has taken an illegal action. First of all because a UNESCO heritage directive allowed the cut only in a small, specific area. Secondly, the area is also a Natura 2000 site. The management plan must therefore meet certain specific requirements. However, in 2016, Polish Environment Minister Jan Szyszko stepped up in logging and tree cutting. Several NGOs reacted and seized the instances of the European Union. On 27 July 2017, the European Court of Justice issued a provisional judgment. It published a temporary ban on the exploitation of the forest. In case of non-compliance with this directive, the Polish state could suffer a financial penalty of up to € 100,000 per day. For the moment, the Polish government ignores the european warnings. However, it should be noted that on January 10, 2018, the Hajnówka court rendered a judgment acquitting the activists. They had blocked a harvester and a freight forwarder, used to cut down the forest. Moreover, the Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the EU, made his conclusions on this Thursday 20 February: he felt that the Polish government had violated European environmental law by allowing large cuts of trees in the Bialowieza forest in a site classified Natura 2000 and World Heritage by UNESCO. The CJEU, which regularly follows the opinion of the Advocate General, should give its definitive judgment within a few weeks.

The local population
Yet, part of the locals believes that they have the right to dispose of their forest. Moreover, they argue that their ancestors have always arranged resources of the forest whether of its wood and picking. They consider European institutions and NGO do not understand their stakes, and violate their right to dispose of their territory.

When Minecraft flies to rescue Bielowiza
GreenPeace Poland associated with Ogilvy communication agency have a fabulous idea: save the forest by using a video game. This is how the fabulous idea of ​​using Minecraft is born. With its 87 million users, Minecraft can be considered social media, is a powerful tool to make a maximum of people aware, especially the youngest. The idea was to make of this real social media an awareness tool. Geoboxer, a Danish company, was used to map the forest and a huge work was done to reproduce with as much conformity as possible the richness of the place.

Touching a large audience, rather young, Greenpeace wants to spread the idea that the forest is much more beautiful with its trees than without. In this way, the association hopes to reach the citizens of tomorrow.

Case to be followed shortly with the judgment of the CJEU…


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