Clear cutting of living coniferous forest of old-age in protected quarters, October - December 2002

Infringements: Clauses 25 and 27 of the Law of the Republic of Belarus «About Special Protected Natural Territories and Objects» are violated; Clauses 1 and 55 of «Forest Codes» of the Republic of Belarus are violated; violation of rules of the tree cut selection; clear cutting the live old-age forest in protected compartments; cutting down living giant trees of old-age; infliction of damage to biological diversity.

Events, facts, documents and evidences: In the period from autumn to winter 2002 the administration of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha has initiated unprecedented management action in the post-war history of the Pushcha: it started clear cutting of elite forest of old-age on a number of sites.

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.

At the end of February 2002 an abnormal hurricane has occurred in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha. It completely devastated the forest on a territory of 181 hectares, although it must be stressed that it is largely a natural phenomenon. The hurricane did not pass in a straight line. In a multitude of flows the hurricane «meandered» through the forest in different directions and leaving behind a curved line at the edge of the patches of forest which were blown down and the Pushcha which remained as ever before.

As it was decided necessary to clean the forest annihilated and killed by the strong wind, these edges started to straighten out and have expanded autocratically in several places.

These pictures do show sites where clear cutting of old-age Spruce-Pine forest has been brought into practice. On some sites bordering to the trees which had been tumbled by the hurricane local centers of Bark beetle infection broke out. During the summer cutting of dead Spruces has been conducted on such sites. However, together with the dead trees, living Pines have been felled as well.

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(Picture 1 - Compartment 708, July 06, 2003; pictures 2-4 - October 16, 2002)

In autumn the management of the National Park ordered to cut down the remaining (mostly living) Pines of old-ages on such places. In the winter the decision has been made to cut living trees further into the forest, by which action the border of the area damaged by the hurricane was expanded in a truly unnatural mode.

These pictures show clear cutting of elite Spruce-Pine forest of old-age at the edge of a site damaged by the hurricane. The clear cutting resulted in hundreds of living old-age pines being ripped by chainsaws.

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(Compartment 708, December 21, 2002)

On these pictures the chronology of cutting down a site in compartment 708 is presented. The first picture, July 2002, shows that beside a pipe-hole for monitoring ground water level Pines are visible of which the trunks have been scorched below. On-ground fire does not lead to death of old-age Pines, since their bark is very thick. The bark effectively prevents the cambia and core of the tree from fatal consequences. The second picture, October, shows that the edge of the forest has retreated by 50 meters due to clear cutting on site. The third picture was made in December and demonstrates that the edge of the forest has receded even further.

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(Compartment 708, July 06, 2002, October 16, 2002, December 21, 2002)

Further: Felling of scientific permanent plots set up for monitoring of the forest