Submitted by admin on Mon, 07/09/2018 - 13:46
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Nature’s last line of defence


No story says ‘people versus power’ like the struggle to save Bialowieza forest in Poland. In 2016, concerned citizens from all walks of life mobilised in this ancient forest to stop extreme logging by the Polish state. Their demand was simple: stop breaking EU nature protection laws.  

In this series we are exploring the value of regulation in protecting people and planet. We have travelled across Europe to meet real people fighting to protect the things they cherish, using – or calling for – regulation to help their struggle.

When it comes to nature, regulation allows things to flourish and grow. The EU’s nature laws protect endangered nature from commercial interests across Europe. In this case, nature laws worked hand in hand with citizens to protect the Bialoweiza forest; regulation was the backbone of the activists’ demands. 

Beyond Bialoweiza, there are many forests that aren’t protected by regulation and remain at risk. 

 

“Thanks to the laws, we had something to refer to whilst fighting. It gave us a backbone. We had something behind us giving us power.”

Kinga Karp, Save Bialowieza activist

 

In 2016 the Polish state forestry began extreme logging in the unique Bialoweiza forest under instructions from the environment minister. Concerned citizens believed this was breaking EU nature protection laws. This means the logging was illegal.

A group of citizens-turned-activists organised themselves to occupy the forest to stop the logging. Activists chained themselves to the logging machines and patrolled the forest every day. They collected data that they sent to the European Commission, which then took Poland to the European Court of Justice – the EU’s highest court. 

The resistance was successful – the European Court of Justice ruled that the Polish government was breaking EU laws. In November 2017 it was given two weeks to stop the illegal logging, or face fines of €100,000 a day. In April 2018, a final judgement ruled that logging was illegal under nature protection laws, and that the logging had to stop.

The forest is now safe, but the people who saved it remain under threat. The activists are facing over 300 court cases for defending nature. You can support them by signing a petition calling on the Polish government to drop the charges.

 


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Special thanks to: Agata Szafraniuk, Client Earth Poland; Adam Wajrak
All the friends we met at the camp on each visit; Asia Pawluskiewicz