The forest boasts Europe’s tallest trees and largest mammal, the bison. It is a national treasure for Poland and an international treasure for us all. Białowieża is our past and our future, a natural laboratory for the study of species and climate, providing globally useful insights into how we’ve changed our environment and how it is changing afresh. Only a small portion (16%) is a national park and parts are protected by the EU and as a Unesco world heritage site.
So Poland’s government announcing a drastic increase in the logging of the old forest around these protected areas matters to all of us. Local communities were permitted to harvest 48,000 cubic metres of timber each year but the government is to allow at least 180,000 cubic metres. The new environment minister, Jan Szyszko, claims that the forest is “rotting away” because spruce trees are being killed by the spruce bark beetle. But scientists say such intervention will do more harm than good.