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Europe's last primeval forest set to undergo brutal logging despite local outcry and nature activism


(NaturalNews) One of Poland's most commanding and impressive natural sites is the Bialowieza Forest. This is not just any forest; it happens to be Europe's oldest primeval forest and the last of its type to exist. Spanning nearly 1,000 square miles along the border with Belarus, the forest is home to the largest bison population in Europe, along with countless other species, including lynxes and wolves.

Visitors are able to step back in time and see firsthand exactly the type of forest that once covered most of Europe. It has stood proudly since 8000 BC, and much of it hasn't been touched by humans since the Ice Age, but now it is facing destruction as a brutal logging campaign got underway on May 25.

A newly passed logging law is undoing thousands of years of nature's work. The environment ministry will allow loggers to chop down more than 6.4 million cubic feet of wood from the forest's non-protected areas over the course of the next ten years, despite a massive outcry on a local and global scale.

Bark beetle outbreak a weak excuse

The new far right government in Poland claims that logging is necessary to deal with a bark beetle outbreak that they say has infected up to 1 million of the forest's spruce trees. It's interesting to note, however, that nearly half of the logging will actually involve other species. There is also another important detail: The logging is expected to raise the equivalent of around $180 million and clear the path for future lucrative tree clearances. The move is dividing people, with many locals unable to understand how something like this could be allowed to happen.

The former director of the Bialowieza National Park, Miroslaw Stepaniuk, claims he was fired just after the elections, because he supported making the entire forest a protected conservation area.

In an interview with the Guardian, he said: "An environmental coup is being staged here not just by the government, but by the national forestry authority. If they are successful, it could trigger a cascade, an avalanche of similar cases in other places."

More than 30 members were recently let go from the National Council for Nature Conservation, which opposed the logging plan. One of scientists who was shown the door, Przemyslaw Chylarecki, said: "We were sacked because the new government needs scientists who will applaud increased logging, to convince public opinion that this insane idea is okay."

When he says it's "insane," he's not kidding. The president of the new government's Scientific Council of Forestry, Professor Janusz Sowa, recently said: "There is [only] one method for managing forests: an axe."

Let nature take its course

However, other experts say that the best approach is simply to allow nature to take its course, just as it has always done. After all, this approach has served it well for thousands of years, and the beetles are not new to the area.

The beetle problem is cyclical and appears to be reaching the end of its current cycle, and the dead trees are currently brimming with life, including woodpeckers, larvae, fungi and spiders, not to mention the shelter fallen trees provide for animals.

The debate has hit the world stage, with many global environmental scientists weighing in. A group of academics from Oxford and Harvard recently sent a letter to the Polish government saying that the logging plan will wreak havoc on the forests' ability to recuperate from the outbreak, and would also be a "drastic" departure from international conservation rules. Fierce protests are being staged, and Greenpeace Poland has called on the European Commission to intervene, but this has not been enough to stop the horrific action.

From Eastern Europe to the Amazon to the Pacific Northwest, the world's forests are facing a full-on assault from logging, leading to massive animal die-offs, and governments are just standing by and allowing the destruction of nature in the name of financial gain.

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