The Association for Landscape Protection from Hajnowka, Poland, calls for immediate action to save the area of Bialowieza Forest. The debate as to what forms of nature conservation are acceptable for Bialowieza Forest has dragged out while not only the nature, but also the fragile system of the Europe's last precious and large forest is in danger.
Bialowieza Forest is a whole natural and cultural organism forcedly divided by the Belarusian and Polish border line. It needs an integrated protection and planning effort, but there is no such, neither in Poland nor in the framework of the so-called "Euroregion Puszcza Bialowieska". In the meantime, Bialowieza Forest is split and being taken to pieces which are "reorganized" and sold.
Apart from the Bialowieza area, already invested with hotels, there is a plan now to open a new border crossing point at the very heart of Bialowieza Forest; this step will inevitably attract more tourist traffic to it. Instead of regulating tourist's routes to develop the area around Bialowieza Forest, more tourist traffic is being directed to the heart of it.
In the free market economy with continuing drive for investments and intensive management - ostensibly for the area's development - the little affected nature of Bialowieza Forest needs the highest protection! It cannot be protected by division or poorly-conceived projects.
Today's lack of integrated protection for the nature and culture of Bialowieza Forest poses the highest threat to the area. Instead of "good" thinking, many choose "sell" thinking for Bialowieza Forest, keeping in mind a "tourist product" which can locally become profitable for some, but generally will not substitute for the wholeness of the landscape and natural organism. It will rather lead to the destruction of harmony, local nature, architecture and traditions.
A lot of public, self-governing, state, independent and private organizations pursue their own policies in Bialowieza Forest without coordinating them, without an integrated plan and often without deep awareness of what such policies can evolve into. The organizations struggle for cash grants, try to sell attractive ideas only to find means for their realization. Taken separately, the ideas may be very worthy of implementation, yet all in one their influence on Bialowieza Forest is uncoordinated and therefore calls for a change. As to thinking about Bialowieza Forest in terms of a "tourist product", even historical names in the area are threatened without an integrated approach of using them.
The latest idea of opening the so-called "on foot" border crossing in the village of Bialowieza will make it impossible to develop the tourist traffic in the outlying areas of both Belarusian and Polish parts of Bialowieza Forest. Consequently it may endanger local nature as much as the construction of the Tatre's cableway in Kasprowy Wierch before World War Two.
We call for actual action to stop chaotic investments in Bialowieza Forest. It is necessary to set up an interdisciplinary body for coordinated planning and prepare a project for appropriate regional management of the whole Bialowieza Forest area (as far as possible in cooperation with Belarus) primarily taking into consideration the opinion of local people and independent non-governmental organizations. It is also necessary to put the body in charge of local planning and investment conditions. Otherwise, before our eyes Bialowieza Forest will turn into a network of cross-cut roads with numerous car parks, and thus it will be stripped of its natural and cultural uniqueness for the sake of Disneyland attractions.
The Association for Landscape Protection
January 11, 2005, Hajnowka, Poland