Poland's new conservative government is planning to lift a moratorium on the logging of old-growth trees in the primeval Białowieża Forest, amid mounting opposition from the Polish Academy of Sciences, ecologists and activists.
Divided between Belarus and Poland, the 1,500-square-kilometre forest is the largest remaining part of a vast, 8,000-year-old temperate forest that blanketed the European lowland (see Nature 455, 277–280; 2008), and is a World Heritage Site.
The forest supports the largest population of European bison (Bison bonasus), as well as wolves, lynxes and some 120 species of breeding bird, including the lesser-spotted eagle (Clanga pomarina) and the three-toed woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus).
Poland's new environment minister, Jan Szyszko, backed by the logging lobby from Poland's state forests (see go.nature.com/dcjp2x; in Polish), claims that the forest is “rotting away”. He proposes a 33-fold increase in logging.
Although the changes do not affect the small Białowieża National Park directly, the forest's remaining old growth will disappear from the buffer zones within a couple of years and jeopardize this unique ecosystem's sustainability.
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