Open letter of Andrzej Konieczny, Undersecretary of State to the AFP editorial office, and The Guardian

Communication sent to the world by the AFP, and the text subsequently published on 03/26/2016 by The Guardian on the Bialowieza Forest contain inaccurate information that "Poland allows large-scale logging in the last old-growth forest in Europe”.

Communication sent to the world by the AFP, and the text subsequently published on 03/26/2016 by The Guardian on the Bialowieza Forest contain inaccurate information that "Poland allows large-scale logging in the last old-growth forest in Europe”.

I wish to correct a wrong message, and inform citing PhD. Eng. Bogdan Jaroszewicz Manager of Bialowieza Geobotanical Station of Warsaw University, that the Forest is not an old-growth forest in accordance with the scientific environmental standards, and that this is "a kind mental shortcut”. In contrast, forests partly similar to the natural forests located in the area which constitutes part of the Bialowieza Forest, Bialowieza National Park subject to strict protection, in which not a single tree has been cut, and there are no plans to do so.

This however does not change the fact that the drama of the dying Bialowieza Forests both in the area of the National Park and Forests beyond the Park goes on. The dispute between the supporters of active measures to defend the forest against bark beetle, and those who prefer to defend bark beetle against foresters is being relentlessly exploited by the bark beetle.

Paradoxically, the attack by the bark beetle is facilitated by functioning legislation on the protection of nature and overlapping different legal forms of protection creating the chaos which in fact makes the Forest defenceless against all kinds of threats. Passive protection used in the Bialowieza National Park area, covering 1/6 of the area of the Polish section of the Bialowieza Forest consists solely on the observation of the processes even the most destructive to the natural environment, it is a paradise not only for the valuable specimens of nature but also for the bark beetles and other factors harmful to the environment.

National Park area is outside the structure of the State Forests agency which does not interfere with any activity of the park management, not to mention cutting down Park trees by foresters. The active method of the protection of nature used by State Forests outside the areas of the National Parks utilises centuries-old experience of foresters in the fight against all kinds of threats to the forest environment. Proponents of passive protection seek to extend this form of protection on the remaining part of the forest located outside the Park, and managed by the State Forests. This part of the forest due to repeated cutting and planting by the people lost its status old-growth forest untouched by human hand. Many noble people genuinely concerned about the state of nature do not recognise the fact that the Forest consists of both separate areas of the National Park, as well as managed forests of three superintendencies (Bialowieza, Hajnowka and Browsk). Mr Wojciech Sobocinski writes "the first and presently probably the most widely used by the society the indicator of forest naturalness are the emotions."

Many people associate Bialowieza Forest name only with the National Park. Suggestion that the entire area of the forest is old-growth forest is a misstatement on the part of supporters of passive protection, and is not true but it raises emotions directed against those who want to take a real struggle for survival of the forest areas. The responsibility to ensure the sustainability of the forest environment in those forests, but not in Park areas lies with the State Forests.

Open letter of Andrzej Konieczny, Undersecretary of State to the AFP editorial office, and The Guardian 

The fact that the forest areas located outside the National Park during its long history were repeatedly subject to exploitation is evidenced by the government license based on which in the years 1924-1929 large areas of trees were cut down by an English company - The Century European Timber Corporation. And this is a paradox, because among the false accusers is one of the oldest English newspapers - The Guardian, which prefers to remain silent about the devastating operations carried out by the English company. The period of 5 years (1924 -1929) in which the said company has cut down over 3,000,000 m3 of wood from the most beautiful areas of the forest is among the worst in the history of the Bialowieza Forest. Nor is there any mention of a degraded area of approx. 7 000 ha of felling sites carried out by the same English company which greatly affected the health condition of the Bialowieza Forest, and led to erosion of homeostasis so important to the functioning of the ecosystem. These felling sites were 100 m in width and their length was up to 1 km. But there is no mention of this fact either, while newspaper indulges in its false ideology.

The money obtained from the sale of licenses for the felling of the Bialowieza Forest were intended to create financial reserves for the exit from the spiral of inflation, and to stabilize the strength of the Polish currency in those years. Mr Adam Loret was fighting to save the Forest by convincing Parliament about the need to terminate contract with The Century Timber Corporation for felling the forest which was associated with huge indemnity undertakings, and took place in 1929. A Forester, an organizer in the interwar period of The State Forests National Forest Holding perfectly functioning until today. Mr Adam Loret decided to establish the Bialowieza National Park which constituted the part of the whole area of the Forest. This man, the defender of the Bialowieza Forest, the creator of the Bialowieza National Park was denied a commemorative plate in the park honour lane for the Bialowieza National Park by the scientists sitting on the Park Council interviewed by foresters in 2006. I think that this fact calls to reflect on the attitude of those scientists who ruthlessly disavow the experience and achievements of foresters in the field of nature conservation.

I am obliged to present the principles of forest management by State Forests which allowed to bring the forests destroyed by devastating, predatory felling carried out by the Nazis during the war to the state which other European countries may envy. Economy rules created by Mr Adam Loret included in the law were designed to protect the forest against attempts to treat it as a piggy banks as it happened in 1924 described earlier. This pre-war Act served as a model for the creators of the post-war Forest Act. This law works so effectively that all indicators of the state of forests in Poland continuously grow. Afforestation area is also steadily increasing approaching 30% of the total surface area of the country. Inventory, i.e. the amount of wood in forests also grows. Average age of the stands increases as well. For many years Polish foresters carry out activities defined as reconstruction of stands. We inherited forests formed on the "forest as a wood factory" principle. Single species, even-aged forest areas were mainly intended for timber production.

Currently in Poland, at a great costs incurred by the State Forests takes place the reconstruction of stands to bring them closer to natural forests. Mixing the species and age of trees in one area is changing not only the appearance of forests but also strengthens their resistance to any kind of emergency from biological, such as attacks by bark beetle to the wind and fire damage. This happens due to the fact that every 10 years each superintendency receives economic plans prepared by thoroughly specialized companies, in which - next to indications related to the reconstruction of forest stands - there are calculated annual allowable cuts which limits the amount of logging, which converted into the mass of wood subject to felling represent only part of the mass which grows in this period in forests. As a result we have more and more forests in Poland. Exceeding the calculated allowable cuts may result in serious legal consequences. This law and the painstaking work of foresters allow for the conclusion that Polish forests stand as a model in Europe which is confirmed by the opinions of academics and practitioners from around the world who visit Polish forests.

Potential current annual increment of wood in economic forests of Bialowieza Forest (of three superintendencies) was set at 300 000 m3 per year. Due to unjustified environmental reasons, and plans of stands reconstruction in order to give them the characteristics of natural forests, i.e. mixed in terms of species and age, former Minister of the Environment lowered originally identified opportunities to approx. 48 000 m3 of wood annually. It has to be said that the current adoption of the amount of cuts in the Bialowieza Forest Superintendency to 188 thousand m3 in 10 years is a mere correction of decision to lower, the implementation of which has deprived foresters the possibility of taking active protection of habitats, and species relying on removal of the effects of synergistic activities of pathogenic agents. In the case of spruce bark beetle the research shows that successive generations of bark beetles flying out of the attacked trees can attack 30 healthy trees where new generations will multiply fast.

Elimination of infected trees is the salvation for spruce forests. It is completely incomprehensible that in the XXI century, after almost one hundred years of wasteful felling the indolence on the part of officials led to similar, disastrous effects of the bark beetle attack, just like described British company. As a result of dying of huge amount of trees, the habitats important for the European Community undergo strong transformation processes. Areas with low water levels turn into a grassy fields, and areas with a high level of water into flooded areas. In both cases the existing habitats important for the Community are subject to degradation. 

Completely incomprehensible is the position opposing active measures based on the principles of active protection demonstrated by circles calling themselves the defenders of the Bialowieza Forest. Furthermore, modern nature conservation is increasingly moving away from the nature reserves' method as evidenced by the publication by Mr Andrew S. Pullin "Biological Basis of Nature Conservation" who in regards to nature reserves accepts the following statement "The current ecosystem study proved that this alluring concept is flawed, it was shown that ecosystems are dynamic and chaotic systems with small capacity for self-regulation, and high sensitivity to change even on a global scale. In the past two decades the point of view has changed towards paradigm, according to which there is no real climax biocenosis nor equilibrium "Pullin p. 157 PWN Warsaw 2005. Further, this scientist says, echoing Wiens "Currently however, great emphasis is on the heterogeneity of dynamically changing habitats, and to maintain it through proper management" Pullin 2005.

Believing in the genuine interest the AFP editorial office, and The Guardian in the situation of Bialowieza Forest we invite representatives of the editorials to visit Poland, and to compare the actual situation of the Bialowieza Forest, and the Polish forests with the content of the message which was published by AFP and The Guardian. Foresters shall reveal before you all the secrets of the profession, and the situation in the Polish forestry.

The open letter was sent to all available to us means of social communication.


Andrzej Konieczny

Undersecretary of State in the Ministry of the Environment