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UNESCO calls on Polish government to halt Bialowieza logging

UNESCO calls on Polish government to halt Bialowieza logging

Potential impacts on World Heritage site have not been evaluated

Comment by the NGO coalition:
ClientEarth, Greenpeace Poland, Dzika Polska, Greenmind, OTOP-Birdlife,
Pracownia na rzecz Wszystkich Istot, WWF Poland

The decision UNESCO adopted today on Białowieża Forest clearly shows that the actions of the Polish environment minister, Jan Szyszko, threaten the forest’s World Heritage status. UNESCO obliges Poland to halt logging in the forest. The decision is based on a report by independent UNESCO experts who visited Białowieża Forest last year. It happened despite pressure from the Polish Ministry of Environment and State Forest Holding, who tried to convince delegates to change their decision. This huge success is a victory for Poland, Białowieża Forest and the international community.

Key points from UNESCO’s decision:
· UNESCO strongly urges Poland to immediately halt all logging and wood extraction, especially of old-growth tree-stands.
· UNESCO points out that cutting trees for safety is an overused excuse by the Polish government (‘sanitary’ logging includes healthy trees and trees that do not pose a threat to people).
· UNESCO noted that Szyszko allowed an increase in logging activities without the evaluation of potential impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the Białowieża Forest, for which it was inscribed on the World Heritage List.
· UNESCO reiterated its request to prepare of a Transboundary Management Plan for the Forest as a matter of priority to ensure effective protection of the site.
· UNESCO welcomed the decision of the Belarusian government to increase the strict protection zone on the Belarusian side of the forest by 1,250 hectares.
· UNESCO requested state parties to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN
Reactive Monitoring mission to the forest to evaluate the current and potential
impacts of ongoing and planned forest management operations on the Outstanding
Universal Value of the Białowieża Forest and to assess whether the property
meets the criteria to classify the forest as a World Heritage Site in danger.
· UNESCO noted with utmost concern the infringement of the decision issued by the European Commission in relation to Białowieża Forest, which stated that increased logging is likely to adversely affect the conservation of the site's habitats and species as well as cause irreparable biodiversity loss.

(5 July 2017)

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