BELOVEZHSKAYA PUSHCHA FOREST IN DANGER!

Appeal to the international society

Belovezhskaya Pushcha is last part of ancient forests of Europe. It is situated at the border between Poland and Belarus. The area of Belarussian part of Pushcha is 101 603 hectares. The average age of forests of Belovezhskaya Pushcha makes more than 100 years, and of its separate parts is 250-350 years. More than one thousand of 300-600 years old trees-giants are recorded here.

The plant kingdom of this unique territory numbers more than 2 thousands of species, the animal world makes more than 11 thousands of species. Living creatures, which have disappeared on the most part of Europe, are kept here: according to not full data, 65 species of higher plants, 4 species of mosses, 16 - lichens, 7 - mushrooms, 11 - mammals, 52 - birds, 2 - reptiles, 1 - amphibian, 8 species of fish, and 38 - insects are included in the Red Book of Belarus. Among them there are species of special value: bison, lynx, badger, otter, shorttoed eagle, black stork, grey crane, eagle owl, great grey owl, three-toed woodpecker, aquatic warbler, silver fir, durmast and many others. The biggest in the world population of bison that numbers 250-300 heads lives in Pushcha.

Belovezhskaya Pushcha is protected since the end of XIV - the beginning of XV century. In 1939, in its Belarussian part on its territory the reserve was organized and names after the territory. In 1957 Pushcha was transformed into a state protected game ground, and in 1991 - into the national park. In 1992 Belovezhskaya Pushcha was included by UNESCO in the List of the World Heritage of Mankind. In 1993 the status of biosphere reserve is given to the national park, and in 1997 it was awarded with the Diploma of the European Council.

In 1994 Belovezhskaya Pushcha was passed to the administrative department of the President of Belarus. New managers had no relation either to reserves, or to nature conservation. Forest for them - even like Belovezhskaya Pushcha - was valuable mainly in economical respect. The activity of the national park had intensively been turned into commercial. New managers tried to gain profit in different ways: breed cattle, enlarged the agricultural lands, increased the number of commercial hunting, and have organized gathering of birch sap, mushrooms, berries, and medicinal herbs in the industrial scales. But the decisive step in destruction of the National Park has become building of large timber processing workshop in the centre of the reserve - Kamenuki village in 1998. Its amounts of processing considerably exceeded calculated wood resource base of Pushcha. Highly productive power-saw bench was bought in Germany. Total cost of the new sawmill complex was more than $1,5 millions.

Forests of Belovezhskaya Pushcha had been keeping its primeval structure thanks to efforts of many generations of Pushcha inhabitants and employees of the reserve. Ancient forest ecosystems determine the value of Belovezhskaya Pushcha. To keep these forests in their old-growth condition it is possible only limiting volumes of logging and observing the rules of the science of wildlife conservation. Until recently the unwritten principle prevailed here: "Not to cut any living tree!" In case if a tree has even one branch still alive, chance was given to it... because such trees are the habitat of many rare and unique species of living organisms. The dried up trees - giants weren't cut for preservation of uniqueness of primeval forest of Belovezhskaya Pushcha. Now all that is a thing of past.

The sawmill is in its full operation. The new management expands in the Primeval Forest huge economical activity covered up by environmental problems of Belovezhskaya Pushcha. This activity doesn't solve these problems, but aggravates them. For mere half of last year in Belovezhskaya Pushcha more than 100 000 cubic metres of valuable wood were cut down. In fact it is 300 hectares of forest! Unique Belovezhskaya Pushcha, its dream forest step-by-step is turned into usual timber facility. Belovezhskaya Pushcha Primeval Forest is inevitably changed... It loses the natural uniqueness and originality, and becomes an ordinary "afforested territory".

Natural young generation of Pushcha forest is cruelly destroyed during intensive logging and skidding of wood. Man-made plantings change the natural forest, including those of origin not from Pushcha.

Belarussian community for several years tries to convince the authorities to stop destruction of the European relic and to stop process of degradation of the Primeval Forest. The problem of development and acceptance of the Regulations about the National park "Belovezhskaya Pushcha " repeatedly put on the agenda. There is no such a legal act in legislation of Belarus for 11 years. The administration of park actually has made its activity secret in response to such a trouble. To learn the real state of affairs in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha for activists it is necessary literally to gain dribs and drabs of information.

The group of scientists and journalists managed to initiate an excursion of members of press and community to Pushcha to see the real state of affairs, and to prove or disprove the information on outrages of nature conservation laws in the reserve themselves. January 29, 2003 about 50 journalists, scientists from Belarus and Poland, representatives of NGOs and state bodies have visited the Pushcha.

The majority of mass-media covered what they have seen objectively, notwithstanding strict regulations and restrictions of access to information from the direction of the administration of the national park, and isolation of the journalists from local population and employees of national park. This is one of the examples.

(From the article "Disaster Area. The "Talibs" Boss In Belovezhskaya Pushcha" by Alexander Khilimon, "Komsomolskaya Pravda")

"At first the anecdotic and at the same time tragic story: "The inhabitant of Kamenyuki lost his way in Belovezhskaya Pushcha". Comic this situation makes that it never could occur. It is like if Mowgli had lost his way in the jungle. Then what's a tragedy? It has happened really! The man, who have grown up in Kamenyuki - "the capital" of Belovezhskaya Pushcha - and had been working there about 20 years, strayed being in his right and sober mind.

For last 1,5 years the National Park have changed out of recognition. It happened so fast that people who work there hardly know again the forest that surrounded them during their childhood, youth and grown-up age. Ancient melancholy has disappeared from the forest, and it has changed into cubic metres of firewood that lie about in disorder everywhere. And this is the description made by scientists: in the beginning of XXI century the natural resources of Belovezhskaya Pushcha are exploited in such ways that it results in the threat of destruction of Belarussian Primeval Forest and loss of unique natural complex for future generations".

The administration of the park is going to sue claims against some of these newspapers.

We ask you to support Belarussian people in their efforts to save Belovezhskaya Pushcha from barbarous use, and to send your letters or faxes to Alexander Lukashenko, the President of Belarus Republic.

The copies of your letters it is desirable to direct to Leontiy Khoruzhick, the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Protection of Belarus Republic.

**************

An example text of a letter:

Address: to the President of Belarus Republic A.G.Lukashenko Copy: to the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Protection of Belarus Republic L.I. Khoruzhick

Dear Mr. President!

The natural complexes of the National Park "Belovezhskaya Pushcha" are the integral part of not only national patrimony of the Belarussian people, but also the World Heritage of Mankind.

As we have learned, after subjecting of "Belovezhskaya Pushcha" to the administrative department of the President of Belarus, the intensive economic activity have begun in the national park, that is incompatible to its tasks, preservation of unique primeval forests of Belovezhskaya Pushcha, that outrages the items of the Law of Belarus "On Especially Protected Natural Areas And Objects" and ignores the rules of the science of wildlife conservation.

In this connection we ask you to make these decisions concerning the National Park "Belovezhskaya Pushcha":

1. To stop wide-ranging harvesting of wood that destroys the structure of the primeval forest.

2. To make highly productive timber processing line out of the jurisdiction of the National Park.

3. To stop commercial hunting.

4. To realize economic activity on the territory of Belovezhskaya Pushcha in strict correspondence with environment conservation legislation and current regulations of science of nature conservation.

5. To develop the Regulations about the National park "Belovezhskaya Pushcha" according to the national and international environment protection legislation, involving public in this activity.

6. To declassify the activity of the management of the National Park "Belovezhskaya Pushcha", and to create Public Supervising Council at the national park.

With hope for conservation of Belovezhskaya Pushcha, Sincerely,
SIGNATURES

*****

ADDRESSEES:

Addressees:

The President of Belarus Republic A.G.Lukashenko
38 Karl Marx St., the Administrative Department of the President of Belarus, Minsk, Belarus 220016
Fax: +17-226-06-10

The Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Protection of Belarus Republic L.I. Khoruzhick
10 Kollektornaya St., Minsk, Belarus 220048
Fax: +17-220-55-83

If possible, please, distribute this information among your colleagues and mass media. We also ask you to send electronic copies of the letters to the environmental group "Pechenegi".

We hope that together we will manage to rescue Belovezhskaya Pushcha from destruction,
International Socio-ecological Union (ISEU),
Ukraine Coalition "For Wild Nature"

Sergey Shaparenko, Environmental group "Pechenegi": pecheneg@ic.kharkov.ua
Vladimir Boreyko, Kiev Ecological And Cultural Center: kekz@carrier.kiev.ua, borey@alfacom.net
Berlova, CCI ISEU: seupress@seu.ru

March, 2003