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EU panel sues Poland to stop logging in one of last primeval forests

By Andrew V. Pestano
Polish police watch activists protest in a village in the Bialowieza Forest on June 8. Thursday, the European Commission called on Poland to immediately suspend logging in the forest. File Photo by Artur Resko/EPA
Polish police watch activists protest in a village in the Bialowieza Forest on June 8. Thursday, the European Commission called on Poland to immediately suspend logging in the forest. File Photo by Artur Resko/EPA

July 13 (UPI) -- The European Commission on Thursday called on Poland to immediately suspend logging in the Bialowieza Forest, which is one of the last areas of primeval forest in Europe.

The commission, a managing institution of the European Union, has referred Poland to the European Court of Justice in the case -- and has asked the court to impose measures requiring the Polish government to stop logging until a final judgement is made.

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"The Court of Justice can prescribe interim measures to require a Member State to hold back from activities causing serious and irreparable damage before a judgement is given," the commission said in a statement. "The Commission considers that the increased logging in the Białowieża Forest requires the adoption of interim measures, which are granted by the Court only in exceptionally urgent and serious cases."

The Bialowieza Forest, located on Poland's eastern border with Belarus, is a World Heritage site designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

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Last year, Warsaw ordered a three-fold increase to logging in the forest, arguing it helps decrease a bark beetle infestation. The European Union, UNESCO and environmental activists have heavily criticized the decision.

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The commission said that logging in the area threatens its Natura 2000 environmental initiative, which it describes as the largest coordinated network of protected areas in the world.

"These measures -- which include the removal of century old trees -- pose a major threat to the integrity of this Natura 2000 site," the commission said. "The Natura 2000 site protects species and habitats that are dependent on old-growth forests, including the availability of dead wood. For some of these species, the Bialowieza Forest is the most important or the last remaining site in Poland."

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The European Commission said Poland's logging measures will not allow for conservation objectives to be reached, which it said are necessary for ensuring sustainable use of the forest.

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