Cutting down of living old-age Pines in protected compartments, May - December 2002

Ecological offences: no-purpose use of natural objects and resources on the territory of the National Park; cutting down of living giant trees (old-age Pines) with specific natural value; violation of the rules on selection of trees to be felled; violation of the maintenance of the ecological balance within the protected forest; infliction to biological diversity; violation of the environment of fauna and flora in Belovezhskaya Pushcha.

The following laws are violated: Clauses 12, 15, 23, 27 of the Law of the Republic of Belarus «About Special Protected Natural Territories and Objects» of October 20, 1994 (brought into force May 23, 2000); Clauses 20, 35, 55, 63 of «Forest Codes» of the Republic of Belarus of July 14, 2000; a number of other normative acts as well.

The legal responsibilities for transgressors: Transgression of the property responsibility should lead to financial compensation of damage inflicted to the Belovezhskaya Pushcha forest. Transgression of the administrative responsibility, fixed in clause 88 of the Codes of the Republic of Belarus on administrative offences, leads to a penalty of 5 to 25 minimal foundation sum. Transgression leading to criminal acts, according to clauses 263 and 264 of the Criminal codes of the Republic of Belarus should be scolded by imposing a reformatory job for a term of up to two years, arrest for a term of about 6 months, restriction or deprivation of freedom for a term of up to five years.

Events, facts, documents and evidences: Pine is the most widespread tree species in Belovezhskaya Pushcha. Pine forests cover over 60 % of the territory of the Pushcha. The majority of Pine forests are of old age. Their average age is more than one hundred years. Stands on which the average age of a pine is 150 – 200 are rather common. Occasionally single giant Pines are present in the class of 250 – 350 years. These giants reach a height of 40 meters. Pines that grew up within the forest are characterized by a straight and long trunk free of knots and a small crown in the top of the forest canopy. Such trees rightly called ship-mast Pines. Old-age Pines in Belovezhskaya Pushcha have a characteristic feature: the reddish color of the wood. A number of connoisseurs stress that primeval wood of this type does not grow on any other location nowadays.

Pine has been cut throughout centuries within Belovezhskaya Pushcha, as it provided valuable timber. However, felling of this species conducted in last half a century has always been limited to dead pines.

The picture shows giant dead Pines which are being cut down in the Pushcha in order to be produced at the sawmill.

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(Compartment 741, July 06, 2002)

Our information. An unwritten rule has been common sense since the end of the Second World War in the Belarusian part of Belovezhskaya Pushcha; living trees should not be cut down. Any tree, even if it has just one living branch left, should live until it dies naturally. According to the cultural belief of the local population every living organism has the right to live - this is the law of the Pushcha. Harmony within the human society originates in harmony of wild nature and has to be indissolubly connected to harmony of nature. Old men in the human society hold the wisdom and traditions of man. In a comparable way old trees in the forest do shape the environment in which a great number of rare and unique species of plants and animals are only able to live. Giant, old-age trees provide a massive range of ecological niches. Besides that old trees bear unique genes. Belovezhskaya Pushcha has persisted its primeval character thanks to the fact that man has refrained from felling living trees, limiting himself to cutting of dead wood.

The administration of the National Park, headed by General Director Nickolai Bambiza, began in 2002 with management action that were unprecedented in the post-war history of the Belarusian part of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha. Secretly, under the guise of fighting the struggle with Bark beetle (which can only infect Spruces), or in combination with clearing trees which had fallen or broke down after two storms, felling of old-age ship-mast Pines of exceptional natural quality has commenced. It includes cutting down of giant Pines.

One year before, summer 2001, local inhabitants stated that within the forestry area of Pashukovskoe old Pines had been cut down secretly. That felling was executed in June - July and the trees under the axe had excellent wood quality. The wood was taken out of the Pushcha without relevant documents and it was directed to the sawmill near Kamenyuki village. The sawmill is owned by a Polish businessman. After the wood was produced it was transported to an unknown customer.. All by all 53 cubic meters of excellent timber have been extracted from the forestry area. The situation in 2002 was similar.

When places where illegal felling of living Pines may have been brought into practice were inspected in June 2002 at the Paskuhkovskoe forestry area the majority of the felled Pines had been taken away at that time. However the woodcutters had «forgotten» to remove a number of Pines which had been cut down before their natural death struck them

On this picture, one of such living Pines is being cut. The vital green needles at the top of the tree are easily visible.

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(Compartment 827, June 30, 2002)

An extraordinarily strong hurricane struck Belovezhskaya Pushcha in February 2002, which lead to large scale annihilation of the forest. But some trees have been surviving after the wind of big power. In accordance with the rules that apply to proper management of the Pushcha, such trees should be maintained since they are important sources to sprout off a young forest generation. The brigades employed to harvest broken and fallen trees respected the rule and left the remaining trees untouched. But, according to local workers, the director of the National Park imposed the woodcutters to return in order to cut down the remaining trees that had «escaped» from prior forest management actions.

In July 2002 there was a case to meet a woodcutter, let's say, in the cutting act.

These pictures were made in July 2002 in compartment 742 on the border of the forest area which had been completely blown down by the hurricane. The pictures were shot in the evening, with cloudy weather and at considerable distance which explains the poor quality of the pictures.

In the middle of the first picture two Pines of old-age stand straight proudly. Near one of the trees a light stain is visible, which is the woodcutter who is sawing by chainsaw. The second picture shows that the tree is falling down. The third picture shows that the pine is lying and the pale color of wood can be seen on the surface sawed.

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(Compartment 742, July 2002)

After the woodcutters finished their work and left home these pictures were made, showing the remaining stump «Bleeding by pitch» and the felled Pine close to it.

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(Compartment 742, July 2002)

However these cuttings, which are in discord to the rules, have to be considered as «limbering-up» for much more inappropriate management action. During autumn 2002 a mass scale cutting down of living Pines of old-age was initiated and started in many compartments of Belovezhskaya Pushcha.

These photos outline cutting of Pines of old-age by woodcutters. Among the selected trees were huge giant Pines which aged at least 200 years. Cutting of the trees in this case focused on pulling down the best trees, while equally thick but weaker trees remained untouched by man's axes.

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(Compartment 742, October 20, 2002)

A great number of old living Pines were felled together with Spruces that had been affected by Bark beetle (and therefore were removed legitimate). Apparently the managers were attracted by a certain advantage of big scale felling, although cutting down of Pines was in discord with the rules.

These pictures show freshly cut down Pines together with thick logs of Spruce.

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(Pictures 1, 2 - compartment 741, October 20, 2002;
picture 3 - compartment 742, October 16, 2002)
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(Picture 4 - compartment 742, October 16, 2002;
picture 5 - compartment 681, October 16, 2002)

On these pictures Pines which had been cut down alive are visible, showing their green tops as well as green branches beside the trees, which had been chopped off. It is an incontestable proof that the living Pines had been separated from their root system - in other words: that living Pines had been cut down alive.

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(Compartment 742, October 20, 2002)
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(Pictures 1, 2 - compartment 742, October 16, 2002;
picture 3 - compartment 708, October 20, 2002;
picture 4 - compartment 712, October 20, 2002)

Another incontestable proof that felling was practiced on living Pines is the fact that many branches and the top of trunks, where the bark is thinner, have been gnawed round by Red deer. In autumn and winter bark of Pine is preferred by Red deer to feed themselves. In that part of the year there is a deficit of other forages for these mammals.

Pines which have been cut down alive and gnawed later by Red deer are presented on these pictures. The first and second pictures were made on the side of a stump, the third on a part of the top of a felled Pine, while the fourth was not made in compartment 742.

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(Pictures 1-3 - compartment 681, October 20, 2002;
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Picture 4 - compartment 742, November 19, 2002)

In autumn 2002 the management ordered to cut down numerous Pines of old-age in the patches of forest which had been struck by the hurricane before. In the winter following it has been decided that the felling of old Pines has been expanded into the depth of the forest, thus a larger area than the patches damaged by the storm.

The pictures present that elite Spruce-Pine forest of old-age bordering to a site damaged previously by the hurricane is being felled. The action resulted in hundreds living Pines of old-age being subject to the destiny of early death imposed by human axe.

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(Compartment 708, December 21, 2002)

These pictures show the chronological felling on a site in compartment 708. The first picture, made July 2002, shows living Pines (beside the pipe-hole for monitoring the ground water level) of which the trunks have been scorched by an on-ground fire in May of that year. On-ground fires usually do not result in death of old-age Pines, since their thick bark protects the cambia and inner tree against the influences of the high temperatures of fire. The second picture, October, presents that the forest receded by 50 meters after clear cutting was conducted on the site. On the third picture, December, the border of the forest has receded further away.

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(Compartment 708,Juky 06, 2002 — October 16, 2002 — December 21, 2002)

Elsewhere Pines which had been cut down alive were grouped in stacks or had been taken out of the forest already. The living stumps and green branches scattered around testify that living trees had been cut down on site.

These photos show cut stumps and green branches laying around are visible.

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(Compartment 712, October 20, 2002)

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(Compartment 712,
October 20, 2002)
Stacks have been grouped here of Pine timber, including trunks of Pines which were alive at the moment they were pulled down.

This stack is made up nearly entirely of perfect old-age Pines (giants) of which the diameter is not less than one meter, aged 150 years and up.

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(Compartment 741,
October 20, 2002)

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(Compartment 742,
October 16, 2002)
In autumn woodcutters tried to burn the fresh branches with green needles after the felling of living Pine and Spruce was conducted. However, fresh branches that could not be burned are visible here.


Later, during fall and winter 2002, the administration of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha has started an action unprecedented in the post-war history of the Pushcha. Clear cutting of elite old-age forest on a number of sites was brought into practice!