NEWS ARCHIVE: January 2002

January 26, 2002 «Zvyazda» (The Star) newspaper, #16 Open letter from deputy head of the Administrative Department of the Belarusian President, V.M.Sudas

The National Park «Belovezhskaya Pushcha» has lately been given the focus of attention in the media, which, in their own way, interpret «the principle of nature management» in this oldest forest. According to scientists and specialists, the droughts of 1992–1994 and 2000–2001 led to the wide spread of forest vermin, including the spruce bark beetle, which left considerable areas of Belovezhskaya Pushcha and other Belarus' forests damaged or dead.

The situation in Belovezhskaya Pushcha's forests has been studied by committees of highly qualified scientists and specialists who represented various departments and establishments. From June to October 2001, more than 300 bark beetle mass-breeding spots appeared. On the whole the volume of damaged wood exceeded 60 thousand cubic metres. The measures have been taken in this regard to fight the pest (pheromone traps, trapping trees, removal of infected and dead trees). To implement them in 2001 the government has allotted additional budgetary funds of 35 million roubles, or 22.2 thousand US dollars.

Nonetheless, there has been a mixed reaction to such steps in the media, especially independent mass media. An appeal 'Do not damage!' was sent by Belarus' public to the European Council. The appeal did not mention the damage to the forest by the pest, though sanitary felling of damaged and dead trees in the areas for recreation and controlled management are interpreted as felling of living forest. It is significant that among those who signed the appeal there are no forestry specialists, almost all that people belong to the opposition. Some of the people, like assistant professor V.M.Yatsukhna (in the appeal signed as Professor V.M.Yatsukhna), even say that they did not sign the appeal.

I do not know what the motives of those who signed that appeal were, but I personally consider it as a mal-stated public position, as Belovezhskaya Pushcha belongs not only to Belarus, but Europe and the world at large.

Accepting all responsibility, I report that no commercial logging is taking place in the National Park 'Belovezhskaya Pushcha'. 15 journalists representing various mass media, participants of our out press-conference in Belovezhskaya Pushcha, can confirm that. The journalists had a chance to learn first-hand of the situation in the National Park, visit its many areas, including the wilderness protection area. Their materials were published in various periodicals.

To reduce the damage the pest has done to economy, some of the dead trees are being processed at the timber mill in the village Kamenyuki, which is outside the National Park.

The specialists are now concerned about how to fight the beetle and protect spruce wood-stands. Certain measures have been worked out in this regard. We appeal to international organizations, including the European Council and the World Bank, to render possible assistance in solving these ecological problems.