The Polish government has commenced controversial logging in the Bialowieza Forest, home to the European bison and 20,000 other wildlife species. The government claims it is logging to protect the forest, but environmental groups don’t buy it. Greenpeace Poland and WWF Poland formally complained to the European Commission, but logging is set to continue anyway.

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According to Konrad Tomaszewski, national forest director, trees will be chopped down “to stop forest degradation” as a spruce bark beetle has infested some of the trees. They’ll also cut down trees that could fall onto trails.

Related: Poland is planning to log one of the last primeval forests of Europe

Greenpeace Poland maintains the beetle infestation is natural. In a statement, activist Katarzyna Jagiello said, “The minister does not understand that this insect is a frequent and natural visitor, that it has always existed and the forest has managed to survive.”

The Bialowieza Forest contains part of “Europe’s last primeval woodland,” according to the Guardian. European bison, the largest mammal on the continent, live in the forest. So do 250 kinds of birds and the tallest trees in Europe.

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According to the environment ministry, over 180,000 cubic meters of forest will be felled over about 10 years, way up from another plan indicating they would cut down 40,000 cubic meters. Parts of the Bialowieza Forest comprise a UNESCO World Heritage site, but the government said it won’t touch those areas. The minister even said a goal of the logging is to protect the forest in accordance with the networking program started to preserve nature, Natura 2000.

When Greenpeace and WWF officially complained, an EU spokesperson said they were “concerned” about the logging. Activist lawyer group ClientEarth indicated the controversy could go to court. Lawyer Agata Szafraniuk said, “The decision to multiply the cutting is not compliant with EU law because it was not preceded by an environmental impact study of the species and the protected sites. A case before the EU court is unfortunately becoming more and more likely.”

Via The Guardian

Images via Wikimedia Commons (1,2)