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Large-scale logging in Białowieża Forest, Poland

This is one remaining part of the primeval forest that used to stretch across the European Plain. Logging limits have been largely expanded, threatening giant spruce trees, oaks and ash trees, and the European bison.


Białowieża Forest is one of the remaining parts of the primeval forest that used to stretch across the European Plain. It is home to giant spruce trees, oaks and ash trees, and more than 20,000 animal species. It is a Natura 2000 area. In Poland, the Białowieża Forest (approx. 62 thousand ha) is divided into: national park (only 17% of the area), nature reserves (19%) and remaining forests (64%) - the Białowieża, Browsk i Hajnówka Forest Districts - under the management of the State Forests (it is a governmental organization that manages state-owned Polish forests on behalf of the Polish State Treasure that is little dependent on the Ministry of the Environment; is required to be financially self-sufficient, and selling logged wood generates profits). 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Large-scale logging in Białowieża Forest, Poland
State or province:Podlaskie Voivodeship
Location of conflict:Białowieża
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Biodiversity conservation conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Logging and non timber extraction
Establishment of reserves/national parks
Specific commodities:Biological resources
Ecosystem Services
Live Animals
Project Details and Actors
Project details

In the current Forest Management Plan (2012-2021), the European Commission and Poland agreed upon a logging limit of 63,471m³ within the Bialowieza forest district. This amount was reached almost four years after the plan's entry into force. In March 2016, Polish environment minister Jan Szyszko (PiS) approved an annex put forward by the State Forests Service that raised the logging limit to 188,000m³. The new limit is thus almost three times higher than the initial one. In 2017, the Director General of the State Forest Office adopted, for the three forest districts, Białowieża, Browsk and Hajnówka, Decision No 51 ‘concerning the removal of trees colonised by the spruce bark beetle and the harvesting of trees constituting a threat to public safety and posing a fire risk in all age classes of forest stands in the forest districts…’ Work thus began on the removal of dry trees and trees colonised by the spruce bark beetle from those three forest districts in an area of approximately 34,000 hectares.

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Project area:12,593 (Białowieża Forest District)
Level of Investment for the conflictive projectUnknown
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:Unknown
Start of the conflict:18/11/2015
Company names or state enterprises:Państwowe Gospodarstwo Leśne Lasy Państwowe (National Forest Holding "State Forests") (State Forests) from Poland
Relevant government actors:- Ministerstwo Środowiska (Ministry of Environment)
- Regionalna Dyrekcja Ochrony Środowiska w Białymstoku (Regional Directorate for Environmental Protection in Białystok)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:- Obóz dla Puszczy
- Koalicja Kocham Puszczę
- Greenpeace Poland (
- WWF Poland (
- ClientEarth Poland (
- Fundacja Dzika Polska (
- Greenmind Poland (
- Ogólnopolskie Towarzystwo Ochrony Ptaków (OTOP)
- nieformalna grupa „Lokalsi przeciwko wycince Puszczy Białowieskiej”
- Pracownia na rzecz Wszystkich Istot (
- Rada Naukowa Białowieskiego Parku Narodowego,
- Państwowa Rada Ochrony Przyrody State Council for Nature Conservation Poland (
- Komitet Ochrony Przyrody PAN
- Rada Wydziału Biologii wiodących polskich uczelni wyższych
- Polskie Towarzystwo Dendrologiczne
- Polskie Towarzystwo Mykologiczne
- Polskie Towarzystwo Etologiczne
- Europejski Oddział Society for Ecological Restoration
- Stowarzyszenie dla Natury WILK
- Fundacja Strefa Zieleni
- Ostra Zieleń
- Zielone Wiadomości
- Partia Zieloni
- Stowarzyszenie Ekologiczne Eko-UNIA
- Fundacja Viva! Akcja dla Zwierząt
- Rozbrat
- Poznaniacy przeciwko Myśliwym
- Towarzystwo dla Natury i Człowieka,
- kolektyw Niedzielni
- Związek Polskich Fotografów Przyrody
- kancelaria prawna Sidor&Pietrzak i Wspólnicy
- Klub Przyrodników
- Polskie Towarzystwo Ekologiczne
- Polskie Towarzystwo Ochrony Przyrody "Salamandra"
- Grupa Badawcza Ptaków Wodnych KULING
- Lubelskie Towarzystwo Ornitologiczne
- Mazowiecko-Świętokrzyskie Towarzystwo Ornitologiczne
- Polskie Towarzystwo Ochrony Ptaków
- Przemyskie Towarzystwo Ornitologiczne
- Ptaki Polskie
- Stołeczne Towarzystwo Ochrony Ptaków
- Stowarzyszenie Obserwatorów Ptaków Wędrownych DRAPOLICZ
- Stowarzyszenie Ochrony Sów
- Śląskie Towarzystwo Ornitologiczne
- Towarzystwo Przyrodnicze DUBELT
- Zachodniopomorskie Towarzystwo Przyrodnicze
- Zamojskie Towarzystwo Przyrodnicze
- Fundacja Akcja Bałtycka
- Towarzystwo Przyrodnicze "Bocian"
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity)
Potential: Noise pollution, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/sense of place, Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights, Increase in violence and crime, Militarization and increased police presence
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Negotiated alternative solution
New legislation
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Violent targeting of activists
Project cancelled
Proposal and development of alternatives:The Camp for the Forest had 4 short-term goals:
1. remove harvesters from the forest
2. stop logging in century-old forest stands
3. stop logging in birds nesting period
4. cancel all prohibitions to enter the forest

One with an expert in biology recommended a quick development of an integrated management plan for the Białowieża Forest as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Such a plan will allow both to protect the environmental values and contribute to the economic development of local communities, including by the development of tourism.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:All short-term goals of the Camp for the Forest have been achieved. The annex to FMP from 2016 has been canceled. Mass logging has been stopped. However, the threat of mass logging for the Białowieża Primeval Forest is still valid if the protection and management of the valuable forests remains unchanged in Poland. The area of the entire forest should become a national park.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

DIRECTIVE 2009/147/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 30 November 2009 on the conservation of wild birds.
[click to view]

Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora.
[click to view]

Court of Justice of the European Union PRESS RELEASE No 48/18, Luxembourg, 17 April 2018.
[click to view]

Decision no. 51 of the General Director of the State Forests of February 17, 2017 on the removal of trees inhabited by the bark beetle and the acquisition of trees posing a threat to public safety and fire, in all tree classes in the Białowieża, Browsk and Hajnówka Forest Districts.
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1] Complaint to the European Commission concerning alleged breach of Union law
[click to view]

[2] Bohdan A. et al. (2018). uszcza Białowieska – raport z dewastacji.Wyniki społecznej kontroli działalności Lasów Państwowych w Puszczy Białowieskiej w 2017 roku (Białowieża Forest - devastation report. The results of the social control of the activities of the State Forests in the Białowieża Forest in 2017) Fundacja Greenpeace Polska, Fundacja Dzika Polska, Obóz dla Puszczy: Warszawa.
[click to view]

[2] Bohdan A. et al. (2018). Puszcza Białowieska – raport z dewastacji. Wyniki społecznej kontroli działalności Lasów Państwowych w Puszczy Białowieskiej w 2017 roku (Białowieża Forest - devastation report. The results of the social control of the activities of the State Forests in the Białowieża Forest in 2017) Fundacja Greenpeace Polska, Fundacja Dzika Polska, Obóz dla Puszczy: Warszawa.
[click to view]

"Last stand for Europe's remaining ancient forest as loggers prepare to move in" The Guardian (18 May 2016)
[click to view]

Radio Poland
[click to view]

Show your support: STOP destruction of the Białowieza Forest!
[click to view]

[click to view] (2021, March 9). Ochrona Puszczy Białowieskiej. Koalicja Kocham Puszczę pisze do ministra klimatu i środowiska [LIST] (Protection of the Białowieża Primeval Forest. Coalition I love the forest writes to the Minister of Climate and Environment [LIST]).
[click to view]

Wikipedia: State Forests (Poland)
[click to view]

The Guardian
[click to view]

The Guardian. 7 April 2017. Polish law change unleashes 'massacre' of trees. (With a description of the Polish Environment Minister's thoughts).
[click to view]

Jurszo R. (2018, December). „Cała Puszcza Parkiem Narodowym!”. Tego chce 84 proc. Polaków ("The whole forest as a National Park!". This is what 84 percent of Poles want).
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Fundraising for the "Camp for the Forest" movement
[click to view]

Fundraising for the "Camp for the Forest" movement. For two years in courts - justice for the defenders of the Białowieża Forest!
[click to view]

Youtube clip
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Joel Tillgren, Philipp Kuhn, Emma Brodén (Lund University).
Last update13/04/2017
Conflict ID:2771
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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