An attempt of the investigation of illegal cutting down living Ash trees of old age in protected compartments, 2007

Violations: Articles 26 and 27 of Belarus' Specially Protected Wilderness Territories and Sites Act, Article 55 and 63 of the Forest Code of the Republic of Belarus; the environmental balance within the protected forest, and damaging the biological diversity.

Events, facts, documents and evidence: In 2005 a case of the illegal cutting down living Ash trees of old age in the protected compartment 803 of the Korolevo-Mostovskoe area was described and was shown in photos. Eight trees had been cut down. Fats and the proofs of the illegal cutting down are given by clicking the above specified link, and in the separate explanation.

In 2007, an attempt to investigate this "dark business" was made in connection with an administrative legal action for slander against the author of the accusatory publication.

click to enlarge in the new window
(A team of investigators,
October 10, 2007)

At first a local militiaman has inspected the witnesses who primary in the verbal communication have confirmed the fact of the illegal felling of ash trees. Then a team of investigators from the Kamenets District Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs has visited the cutting site, has surveyed stumps and wood-cut residuals and has taken appropriate documents in the National Park and explanations of employees. Then the team has concluded that living trees have not been cut down (!), illegal cuttings in the quarter 803 have not been found (!) and information at the website has not been confirmed (!).

The photos below show stumps, pieces of trunks and wood-cutting residuals of old-age ash trees illegally felled, and the team of investigators in 2007. For comparison the photos of the same stumps and trees shot in 2005 are also given.

click to enlarge in the new window => click to enlarge in the new window click to enlarge in the new window
(Compartment 803, September 7, 2005) (October 10, 2007)
click to enlarge in the new window => click to enlarge in the new window click to enlarge in the new window click to enlarge in the new window
(Compartment 803, September 7, 2005) (October 10, 2007)
click to enlarge in the new window => click to enlarge in the new window click to enlarge in the new window click to enlarge in the new window
(Compartment 803, September 7, 2005) (October 10, 2007)
click to enlarge in the new window click to enlarge in the new window click to enlarge in the new window => click to enlarge in the new window
(Compartment 803, September 7, 2005) (October 10, 2007)
click to enlarge in the new window => click to enlarge in the new window
(Compartment 803, September 7, 2005) (October 10, 2007)
click to enlarge in the new window => click to enlarge in the new window click to enlarge in the new window
(Compartment 803, September 7, 2005) (October 10, 2007)
click to enlarge in the new window => click to enlarge in the new window click to enlarge in the new window
(Compartment 803, September 7, 2005) (October 10, 2007)

Closely having learned materials of investigation concerning the fact of illegal cuttings of ash trees, I have come to a conclusion that the investigation by militia was being carried out like by dilatants. Many proofs were ignored. For example, still green or recently dried leafs on branches of the cut down ash trees are well visible on photos , whereas the conclusion is made that "living trees were not cut down". In the task-wood-cutting document, the form of felling "clearing the forest from dead wood" is specified and felling of softwood trees (alder is a basic species) is permitted. However, ash trees (a hardwood species) were actually felled in most cases. Other proofs were also ignored. Skilful and independent experts in the field of forestry were not involved in the investigation. Workers of the National park who gave evidence and furnish explanations were apparently under pressure (they have short-term labour contracts), therefore at first being confirmed in the oral deposition, they then have changed their statements in official written depositions. Militiamen, militia investigators are not experts in the field of forestry and nature protection, of course, could not independently make the correct and qualified conclusion.

The other point is whether were they allowed to make the correct conclusion?
This case and numerous other cases when facts of illegal or wrong economic activities in the protected Bialowieza Forest are ignored, are covered and are not investigated lead to the conclusion that we can reveal the truth about what was done and what is doing in Belovezhskaya Pushcha within last years most likely only after democratization will start in Belarus and the Constitution and legislation will be restored in their full extent.