NEWS ARCHIVE: MARCH 2010

March 31, 2010 Website "Care2.com" Stop logging in Bialowieza Primeval Forest during the bird breeding season (Poland)

Stop logging in Bialowieza Primeval Forest during the bird breeding season!


Please send a mail with the below text to ANDRZEJ KRASZEWSKI, Polish Minister of the Environment: Biuro.Ministra@mos.gov.pl
and The State Forests National Forest Holding: sekretariat@lasy.gov.pl
and CC to adam.wajrak@gazeta.pl

And don't forget to sign it!


Dear Sirs,

Please stop logging in Bialowieza Primeval Forest during the bird breeding season. Any harvesting activity from 1st March till 31st August should be halted. Bialowieza Forest is the last primeval forest in temperate Europe and it deserves to have been protected long time ago as a National Park. It is home to rare species such as the three-toed woodpecker, white-backed woodpecker or pygmy owl. A ban on timber harvesting during the breeding season is absolutely the minimum Polish authorities should do to preserve this place. Moreover, logging during bird breeding season breaks EU legislation (Birds Directive).

Yours sincerely,
XXX (your signature)

"Dear Friends,

Bialowieza Forest is the last lowland primeval forest in the temperate zone. Even in North America there is not any temperate forest with this primeval character in such a good state of conservation. Such forests grew for centuries from the Urals to Ireland and Spain. Nowadays, only about 1400 km2 remain: 800 km2 in Belarus and 600 km2 in Poland. Whereas, the Belarussian part of the forest is entirely protected as a National Park, in Poland only 16% is under protection. Every year it's cut more than 100 thousand m3 of wood in Polish part of Bialowieza Forest. Recently, logging has taken place even in the natural reserves outside the National Park. Claimed by foresters as strictly necessary to preserve the forest, the truth is that the more we log, the less primeval and natural the forest is. Every tree cut and every tree planted is a catastrophe. This might make sense in a managed forest, but here, it means loosing its primeval character.

Unfortunately, Polish governments have always been very influenced by forester and hunter lobbys (in fact a lot of politicians hunt), and they keep on postponing the issue of Bialowieza Forest protection. For decades, the government has been putting off the creation of a National Park in the whole forest under the argument that it was a decision of the local authorities. However, the government is competent enough to stop logging. Just one signature from the General Director of the State Forest, who is under the Ministry of Environment, would be enough. At least they could stop logging during the breeding season of birds. Bialowieza Forest is inhabited by an incredible large number of white-backed woodpecker, three-toed woodpecker, pygmy owl, Tengmalm's owl, collared flycatcher, red-breasted flycatcher, hazel grouse and the lesser spotted eagle. They deserve not to be disturbed at least from march to the end of august. This is the absolute minimum responsibility we have for the birds living here and for the last of our primeval forests.

Yours Adam Wajrak"

Let's help to protect the most precious Polish forest. More about Bialowieza Primeval Forest: http://www.wildeurope.org/attachments/053_Bialowieza%20Primeval%20Forest_IJWDec02.pdf
http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=3886
"W Puszczy slychac pily" article in Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper (only in Polish): http://wyborcza.pl/1,76842,7690607,W_Puszczy_slychac_pily.html

If you'd like to know who is the originator of this petition:
http://www.time.com/time/europe/hero2005/wajrak.html
More about the problem and appeal in "What's going on? Adam Wajrak explains in English and in Polish at "http://puszcza-bialowieska.blogspot.com/2010/03/o-co-chodzi-tumaczy-adam-wajrak-po.html

April 01, 2010 Website "Sascha Rösner" Protect Bialowieza Forest! (Poland)

Dear colleagues, dear friends,

Bialowieza Forest is something absolutely special. It is our European “Amazon jungle”. I have been walking in this forest for 20 years and I am still astonished at its amazing beauty, it is like a miracle. It is the last lowland primeval forest in the temperate zone. Even in North America there is not any temperate forest with this primeval character in such a good state of conservation. Such forests grew for centuries from the Urals to Ireland and Spain. Nowadays, only 1500 km2 remain; in Belarus (800 km2), in Poland (600 km2). Whereas the Belarussian part of the forest is entirely protected as a National Park, in Poland only 16% is under protection. Every year, we Polish, cut more than 100 thousand m3 of wood. Recently, logging has taken place even in the natural reserves outside the National Park. Claimed by foresters as strictly necessary to preserve the forest, the truth is that the more we log, the less primeval and natural the forest is. Every tree cut and every tree planted is a catastrophe. This might make sense in a managed forest, but here, it means loosing its primeval character. We destroy something which is going on for 8 thousand years. It is like taking the bricks of the last medieval cathedral in Europe and replacing them with concrete blocks. It is a big shame that Poland, my country, is the one ruining such a treasure. As a country, we do not need the wood from Bialowieza because we get from other Polish forests 30 million m3 of wood every year. This is absolutely enough for our houses and furniture. Wood from Bialowieza represents cash just for a few people. But this forest belongs to all of us!

Unfortunately, Polish governments have always been very influenced by forester and hunter lobbys (in fact a lot of politicians hunt), and they keep on postponing the issue of Bialowieza Forest protection. For decades, the government has been putting off the creation of a National Park in the whole forest under the argument that it was a decision of the local authorities. However, the government is competent enough to stop logging. Just one signature from the General Director of the State Forest, who is under the Ministry of Environment, would be enough. At least they could stop logging during the breeding season of birds. Bialowieza Forest is inhabited by an incredible large number of white-backed woodpecker, three-toed woodpecker, pygmy owl, Tengmalm’s owl, collared flycatcher, red-breasted flycatcher, hazel grouse and the lesser spotted eagle. They deserve not to be disturbed at least from march to the end of august. This is the absolute minimum responsibility we have for the birds living here and for the last of our forests.

Yours
Sascha Rösner
(originally written by Adam Wajrak, I agree 100%)

Please send a mail with the below text to ANDRZEJ KRASZEWSKI, Polish Minister of the Environment: Biuro.Ministra@mos.gov.pl
and The State Forests National Forest Holding: sekretariat@lasy.gov.pl
and CC to adam.wajrak@gazeta.pl

And don’t forget to sign it!


Dear Sirs

Please stop logging in Bialowieza Primeval Forest during the bird breeding season. Any harvesting activity from 1st March till 31st August should be halted. Bialowieza Forest is the last primeval forest in temperate Europe and it deserves to have been protected long time ago as a National Park. It is home to rare species such as the threetoad woodpecker, white-backed woodpecker or pygmy owl. A ban on timber harvesting during the breeding season is absolutely the minimum Polish authorities should do to preserve this place. Moreover, logging during bird breeding season breaks EU legislation (Birds Directive).

Yours sincerely,
XXX (your signature)
March 31, 2010 "Vecherniy Grodno" (The Evening Grodno) newspaper How much does hunting for bison cost and where is diving permitted



Where can one hunt for bison and how much does the license cost?
– Bison live in the Svisloch district, that's in the area of Belovezhskaya Pushcha, and near the village of Strievka where they are kept in the agricultural enterprise "Lakes". This year the shot for one of these animals near Strievka costs about 10 thousand Euros. In Belovezhskaya Pushcha it is more expensive – 30 to 40 thousand Euros. Only foreigners still allow themselves this kind of the expensive amusement.

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(The text of the news is put in the short-cut form. The BP-21 Century editor's note.
The full text is available at the original website, in Russian.
)
March 30, 2010 Website "LOGISTIC.RU" Construction and repair of highways around Belovezhskaya Pushcha could begin in May

Construction of new highways around the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park and repair of the existing ones might begin as early as in May, a spokesperson at the Belavtodor road maintenance department told BELTA, Belarus’ state-controlled news agency.

"Job assignment in the construction and overhaul of the highways around Belovezhskaya Pushcha and renovation of the Pukhovichi-Brest section of highway M5 is still an open issue," the Belavtodor press office said. "Design briefs for the overhaul of the roads have been approved, and for the renovation, are under preparation for approval. It is not improbable that construction work will start there in May."

Information source: BelTA
March 29, 2010 Website "OPEN.BY" Prolongation of European Diploma for Belovezhskaya Pushcha to put off again

The draft of the appropriate decision should be approved by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in the near future, as the BelaPAN News Agency learned from the administration of the National Park "Belovezhskaya Pushcha".

European Diploma is a prestigious award which marks successes of national parks and biosphere reserves in the field of nature protection. The National Park "Belovezhskaya Pushcha" gained it in 1997. A representative of the National Park informed that validity of the European Diploma for the National Park "Belovezhskaya Pushcha" is temporarily suspended at present time.

Let's remind that in October of 2007 the Belarusian party had to present to the CE experts a management plan for the park for the nearest 10 years which is an obligatory condition of prolongation of the Diploma. However, it was failed to prepare the document to this term. The Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent to the CE Committee on Conservation of Biological and Landscape Diversity a letter in which the reasons of the delay in preparation of the plan were explained. It was also assured that nature protection and economic activities in Belovezhskaya Pushcha are in complacence with the Diploma's requirements and recommendations.

The Committee took into account these explanations and rescheduled discussions on this issue for November of 2007, then for spring of 2008, then for March of 2009 and, at last, for March of 2010.

According to the representative of the National Park, the CE experts yet again have postponed prolongation of the CE Diploma for Belovezhskaya Pushcha because they are going personally to be convinced of "how the Park's management plan will be in operation". It is expected that this year a mission of the UNESCO and IUCN's experts will pay a visit to the National Park for estimation of the efficiency of its activities.

Besides, the CE experts have requested the Belarusian party for sending a complete version of the management plan translated into English. The directive part of the plan which includes nature protection activities, that's about one third of the document, was only still translated into English.

BelaPAN
March 24, 2010 Website "The Ukrainian News" President Lukashenko has given an interview to an Argentina reporter on a beach in shorts. Video

The Belarusian TV-channels has shown yesterday shocking stills – the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko gives interview in shorts on a desolate Venezuelan beach, as Charter'97 informs.

From the stills, the beach is rather bleak, no people there. The Belarusian governor sits in shorts with a reporter of the Argentina newspaper Diario La Nacion, gives publicity leaflets about MAZ motor vehicles, gives a book about Belovezhskaya Pushcha and tells how Belarus waits for foreign investors.

"I invite you to visit Belarus. You will be convinced this is the most beautiful and safe country where the most beautiful people of the planet live," Lukashenko sais.

The reporter from Diario La Nacion could gain primary information about the Belarusian industrial and tourist opportunities right here. Lukashenko has presented him two colourful albums.

"That's the general album. See, here is approximately what we produce. It's in Spanish. See, that's the great legacy of Europe and the world - only Amazon area can be equal with. That's the strictly protected Belovezhskaya Pushcha … We can have very good relations with any president of Latin America. We are very peaceful, predictable and decent people. And when we talk to representatives of Latin America, we proceed not so much from what we have to take and earn as also from what we have to give," the Belarusian governor declared.
March 19, 2010 Website "BelTA" A bypass road around Belovezhskaya Pushcha will be constructed with a minimal harm for nature

A bypass road around the National Park "Belovezhskaya Pushcha" will be constructed with a minimal harm for nature, Ruslan Novitskiy, head of the Sector of Fauna Monitoring and Cadastre at the Bio-Resources Scientific and Practical Centre of the National Academy of Sciences, said to the BelTA reporter.

Belarusian scientists will carry out integration researches on fauna in the area of the bypass road's construction, will determine species which can suffer from the project and will develop decisions which can help reduce the negative effect from the new object to animals and even to insects as small as possible. Species of a Red Data Book will be under special attention.

The gathered information will allow the experts to develop the most optimal nature protection measures for the investigated area of Belovezhskaya Pushcha. "We will be able to say whether the subway for amphibians or any special structures for transition of mammals are necessary in this site or not", the interlocutor has explained. "It will be clear which measures for protection of insects are in need, for example, whether we have to refuse to mow vegetation clean on the wayside in June that to maintain some of their populations".

According to Ruslan Novitskiy, creation of transition ways for animals should closely be connected to reconstruction and repair of highways, first of all in especially protected natural areas. It will allow to lower the number of traffic accidents through wild ungulates' fault and to resist fragmentation of habitats of animals. The whole complexes of underground subways and special bridge structures for various groups – amphibians, ungulates and small mammals – are created in many foreign countries as aiming preservation of fauna diversity. Moreover, such transition ways for some sites with intensive migration can be located at a distance of 1 to 15 km from each other.

Belovezhskaya Pushcha is one of the world's oldest protected territories. In 1992 UNESCO put it into a World Culture and Natural Heritage List. It 1993 it became a biosphere reserve, in 1998 - the key international ornithological territory. At present the national park stretches for over 60 km from north to south and for 10-50 km from west to east. It covers the area of 163 505 hectares and around 20% of Belovezhskaya Pushcha's territory makes up a strictly protected zone where no human activities are allowed.

As earlier informed, it is planned to construct the bypass road with an engineering infrastructure around the territory of the National Park "Belovezhskaya Pushcha" in 2010-2011. The existing road network will be used as maximum as possible and new parts will also be add.

Olga Belyavskaya
March 16, 2010 Website "Feedzilla.com" Prince Charles views Polish bison, without Camilla


Source: The ociated Press
Britain's Prince Charles poses next to a Polish Tarpan horse in Bialowieza, Poland,Tuesday, March 16, 2010. The prince was on his second day of a three-day visit to Poland. (AP Photo / Czarek Sokolowski, pool)

March 16, 2010 Website "The Prince of Wales" TRH spend a second day in Poland


Source: The ociated Press
The Prince of Wales saw some rare Polish horses during a visit to an ancient woodland today on the second day of his overseas tour to Poland.

The Duchess of Cornwall has a trapped nerve in her back and was forced to cancel her engagements with The Prince in Eastern Poland, but instead visited the British Embassy and the Chopin Museum in Warsaw.

His Royal Highness visited the Bialowieza National Park, located in North Eastern Poland, which has been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The national park protects the best preserved fragment of the Bialowieza Forest – the last natural, primeval forest in the European Lowland area.

The park is high in biological diversity and is home to a breeding programme for the European bison, which The Prince viewed during his tour, as well as the native Tarpan horses. Tarpan horses were once found across Poland but efforts are being made to re-introduce the rare breed and stem the decline. One friendly horse poked its head through a wooden fence at The Prince, who scratched behind its ears.

The Prince, who wore a large beige coat against the cold, said: "They always like being scratched." When the horse nuzzled The Prince's hands, he added: "I haven't got anything to give it!"

Afterwards The Prince travelled to the Kruszyniany Mosque to meet representatives of the local Tatar Muslim community who have lived peacefully in Eastern Poland from as early as the 13th Century.

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(The text of the news is put in the short-cut form. The BP-21 Century editor's note.
The full text is available at the original website.
)
March 16, 2010 Website "Zimbio" Prince Charles meets bison, Polish tatars


Chris Jackson-Pool/Getty Images
On his second day in Poland, the Prince of Wales saw a side of the country that many do not often know about. He toured a woodland that included rare European bison, and then later visited a Tatar community.

Prince Charles arrived at the Bison Reserve in Bialowieza in eastern Poland in the morning. He witnessed bison out in the wild and was taught about how they survive the winter. Europe’s bison, a cousin of the North American version, number around 500.

Later, the Prince went to Kruszyniany, near the Belarussian border, to meet with Poland’s tiny Muslim Tatar community. He was greeted by the village’s spiritual leader Tomasz Miskiewicz, and was given a tour of the its small wooden mosque.

Charles then was entertained by a group of traditional Tatar dancers and had a taste of their cuisine inside a felt tent, another of this group’s traditions.


AFP/Janek Skarzynski
“We made him a ‘pierekaczewnik’, a kind of beef pie, as well as Tatar ‘kolduny’ which are like ravioli stuffed with beef and mutton, plus the water, honey and lemon drink ’syta’, as well as mint tea and cardamom coffee,” Dzenneta Bogdanowicz, who runs a guesthouse in the village, told AFP.

The Tatars came to Poland in the 1300s to be soldiers in its royal army. They stayed in the country and were granted their own land in the 1500s. Although they maintain their religion and customs, they have long forgotten their Tatar language and have adopted Polish names.

While Prince Charles was doing all this, he was alone. His wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, resigned from taking part in this engagement due to a back pain. Instead, she visited a museum in Warsaw dedicated to the famed pianist Frederic Chopin.

Tomorrow is Charles and Camilla’s last day in Poland. After that, they will head for Hungary.
March 16, 2010 "Zarya" (The Dawn) newspaper Clear victory

Council of Ministers has announced the results of the national review of the sanitary state and accomplishment of built-up areas.

Five representatives of the Brest region got the winners of the competition. The city of Brest (regional centers) was recognized best in the category A. The towns of Pinsk and Kobrin were first among district centers with the population more than 50,000. The jury has awarded the victory to the town of Bereza in the category C (district centers with the population less than 50,000).

The village of Kamenyuki of the Kamenetz district that is in Belovezhskaya Pushcha was recognized first of the level of the sanitary state as it has appreciably grown prettier prior to the celebration of its 600th anniversary. All winners have got pecuniary premiums from the budget which will be spent for the further accomplishment.
March 15, 2010 Website "Belteleradiocompany" Video: Museum of History and Nature of Belovezhskaya Pushcha Forest expanding

Two more halls will appear there. Now the natural wonders of the oldest forest of Europe will be not only seen, but also heard.

By Svetlana Vechorko: The very familiar bison Puginal, a symbol of Belovezhskaya Pushcha and a founder of the modern bison herd, meet the visitors of the new museum. This forest giant has been in the old museum for many tens years. It is also used this time. But this is, perhaps, the only what unites the old and new expositions. A truly patch of the ancient forest, not simply the next hall of the museum, is hidden behind the working screen. The museum demonstrates a variety of ecological paths and over 80 types of natural complexes present in Belovezhskaya Pushcha. The history and nature-study conception was used as a base for creation of the new museum.

(Irina Siz, senior guide of the museum of Belovezhskaya Pushcha, "The exposition of the new museum is now more interesting. Multimedia tools are used here and the visitors will also be able to touch the life of Belovezhskaya Pushcha and to hear voices of birds and animals, not only to see stuffed animals like it was in the old museum.")

The new museum allows not only seeing bit also hearing. That's, perhaps, its distinction in kind from the old museum. So, the exposition "Seasons of the Year" is accompanied by the Vivaldi's music. In the historical hall the burst of a coming thunder-storm replaces sounds of imperial hunting and voices of the ancient forest - bear's roar, clatter of tarpan-like horses' hoofs, glutton's weeping. The new opportunities have had an effect on the number of visitors of the museum. The growth of interest to the history and nature of the most ancient forest of Europe became perceptible in the whole winter. The employees of the national park hope that this positive tendency will also be continued in the upcoming spring.

(The video-reportage can be watched by downloading the file from here, in Russian)
March 14, 2010 Website "Las Cruces Sun-News" Prince Charles to visit bison-filled Polish forest


In this photo dated Feb. 2005, bison, Europe's largest land mammal, forage in the recently fallen snow in the Bialowieza Forest in Poland.

Britain's Prince Charles is visiting Poland on upcoming Monday, a journey that will include a visit to the bison-filled woodland of Bialowieza Forest, Europe's last remaining primeval forest which remains only thanks to preservation efforts of various kings and czars from centuries past and present.

WARSAW, Poland—Britain's Prince Charles visits Poland on Monday, a journey that includes a visit to a bison-filled woodland—Europe's last remaining primeval forest thanks to preservation efforts of kings and czars of centuries past.

The British Embassy in Warsaw said the environmentally minded prince, along with his wife, Camilla, will visit a bison reserve where they will be guaranteed a view of several of the hefty beasts that are Europe's largest land mammals and less-hirsute cousins of the North American buffalo.

They will then go to a feeding point where they may see some of the imposing animals wandering freely.

During the warmer months, the bison feed on grass and other vegetation, living in the wild and avoiding human settlements. But during the winter they are dependent on supplemental feeding stations that help them survive and keep them from ravaging farmlands.

Rafal Kowalczyk, a mammal ecologist who studies the bison, many of whom he has fitted with GPS collars to track their movement, calls the animals "ghosts of the forest."

"When you catch a sight of their horns in the distance in summer it is like magic," he said. But the winter is another matter: "they become like lazy cows."

Charles and Camilla begin their three-day visit Monday, when they dine with President Lech Kaczynski and meet Prime Minister Donald Tusk. On Tuesday, they will travel 125 miles (200 kilometers) east to the Bialowieza.

Forest, an immense virgin forest that straddles Poland and Belarus. It is also home to wolves, lynx and otters, along with storks that circle above.

Yet travelers come from far and wide mainly to see the bison, an animal that lived across much of Europe until 10,000 years ago but whose habitat shrank dramatically with deforestation and the spread of towns and cities across Europe in recent centuries.

"The bison is like a relic of past times," said Kowalczyk, with the Mammal Research Institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

There are more than 800 in the forest, with 450 on the Polish side, together making up the world's largest free-living population of European bison.

Poland's 15th-century kings recognized the importance of the forest, which they valued for the presence of the bison they loved to hunt. They forbade settlements in the forest and banned the cutting of trees and hunting by others. At one point the penalty for killing one bison was the forfeiture of 30 cows, Kowalczyk said.

In the 19th century, the area came under Russian control and the czars came to value the place and made it their private property. During World War I, the bison were nearly wiped out when hungry German soldiers and residents hunted them for their meat.

Bison slowly returned in the 1920s with some zoo animals used to restart the population. The result is extremely limited genetic variety in the Bialowieza population, a problem further hampered by the heavily fortified border between EU member Poland and autocratic Belarus.

The border prevents migration and reproduction between bison on each side of what some call Europe's new Iron Curtain.

Charles will meet Culture Minister Bogdan Zdrojewski to discuss the preservation of crumbling palaces in Poland.

Charles and Camilla finish their Polish visit Wednesday, meeting with soldiers bound for Afghanistan before continuing on to Hungary and the Czech Republic.

By VANESSA GERA Associated Press Writer
March 09, 2010 Website "Telegraf.by" Prince Charles to Visit Belavezhskaya Pushcha

Photo: sustainabilityninja.com
Photo: sustainabilityninja.com
The Prince of Wales and his wife Camilla are planning to visit Belavezhskaya Pushcha - connate primeval forest on the border of Poland and Belarus. Prince Charles and his wife expressed a wish to see "bison of Belavezha in their natural environment," reported Elenta Gadek, one of the representatives of Polish Podlaskie Voivodship authorities which borders with Belarus.

Long ago, representatives of the royal family heard about this unique primeval forest - in prehistoric times extended all over Europe - and now preserved only on the Belarusian-Polish border, in the Belavezha region. There is world's largest population of bison (about 450 on the Polish side, and 350 on Belarusian) in this forest, reports the Belarusian service of Radio Liberty.

Prince of Wales and his wife also intend to visit a small village on the Polish-Belarusian border, Krushinyany, with descendants of Tatars – appeared in these places in the late 17th century - among its population.

Representatives of the British Crown wonder how feels Tatar minority - Muslim population - in a country dominated by the Roman Catholic traditions.
March 08, 2010 Website "France24" Prince Charles to visit rare European bison herd

Britain's Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, arrive at Westminster Abbey on Monday. Prince Charles is to visit a rare herd of European bison in Poland's primeval Bialowieza forest next week, local authorities said Monday.

AFP - Prince Charles, the eco-friendly heir to the British throne, is to visit a rare herd of European bison in Poland's primeval Bialowieza forest next week, local authorities said Monday.

"Prince Charles and his wife want to see the bison in their unique natural habitat," Jolanta Gadek, spokesperson for Poland's Podlasie province was quoted by the Polish PAP news agency as saying.

The Bialowieza forest spanning part of Poland's border with Belarus, is a rare European primeval forest and a protected national park.

A unique herd of some 800 European bison live in the forest -- some 450 on the Polish side. The endangered mammals are cousins of the North American buffalo.

A herd of some 700 that lived in the forest prior to World War One was all but wiped out by German troops and local poachers. The existing herd was bred from seven surviving animals.

The royals will also visit a small mosque in the eastern Polish village of Kruszyniany on the Polish-Belarussian border populated by descendents of Tatars who at the end of the 17th century were granted land by Poland's King Jan III Sobieski as payment for their military service.

Poland's tiny Tatar minority also constitutes the predominantly Roman Catholic country's indigenous Muslim population.

Prince Charles will visit Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary March 15-23.

The Polish leg of the visit will focus on "cooperation in the area of environment protection, defence and matters concerning ethnic and religious minorities," according to a statement by the British embassy in Warsaw.
March 02, 2010 Website "Naviny.by" Belarusian ecologists are against renewal of a European Diploma for Belovezhskaya Pushcha

The BelaPAN Information Agency learned from one of those who signed an appeal that 17 Belarusian representatives of the environmental public have addressed to the Council of Europe with a request to take another year's break before making the final decision on renewal of the Diploma for the National Park "Belovezhskaya Pushcha".

Olga Satsuk, information manager of the environmental Alliance "Green Network", said that the former deputy director for research of the National Park Heorhi Kazulka took part as an initiator of this action.

European Diploma is a prestigious award which marks successes of national parks and biosphere reserves in the field of nature protection. The National Park "Belovezhskaya Pushcha" gained it in 1997.

In October of 2007 the Belarusian party had to present to the CE experts a management plan for the park for the nearest 10 years which is an obligatory condition of prolongation of the Diploma. However, it was failed to prepare the document to this term. The Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent to the CE Committee on Conservation of Biological and Landscape Diversity a letter in which the reasons of the delay in preparation of the plan were explained. It was also assured that nature protection and economic activities in Belovezhskaya Pushcha are in complacence with the Diploma's requirements and recommendations.

The Committee took into account these explanations and rescheduled discussions on this issue for November of 2007, then for the spring of 2008, then for March of 2009 and, at last, for March of 2010.

The ecologists in their appeal say about infringements of democratic procedures during the discussions of the plan and impossibility of its open public control.

"The analysis performed by members of the public shows a huge number of environmental problems in Belovezhskaya Pushcha which are leading toward the ruin of that unique area of wilderness at increasing speed," is said in the appeal. In particular, in February this year facts about an illegal bison hunt in the strictly protected area got the publicity", the signatories mention. They also pointed out on-going wide-scale logging in the forest. Besides the ecologists are concerned over construction of a modern bypass road around Belovezhskaya Pushcha, and over intentions intensively to develop tourism and hunting within park's areas.

"We do not see for today no wish of the national park's administration seriously considering the management plan as guidance", the signatories declare. They hope that the chance to improve the situation will appear in case if the decision on prolongation of the Diploma will be postponed or, in case of necessity of getting a compromise, the Diploma will be renewed conditionally on a temporary basis, for a period of two or three years".
March 02, 2010 BP-21 Website News Service The Belarusian public to propose to the Council of Europe not to rush to a conclusion regarding the renewal of a European Diploma to the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park

17 representatives of the Belarusian ecological public have addressed to the Council of Europe with a letter in which they express their deep concern about the future of Belovezhskaya Pushcha.

They note that "the Diploma is still not being used in the national park entirely for the purpose of compliance with international and national environmental regulations, protection of Belovezhskaya Pushcha’s unique nature complex, a balanced nature management process, and harmonious coexistence of man and nature. The Diploma is still not considered there as a vehicle for promoting democratic and humanitarian principles or pursuing a partnership with the public, which eventually should result in sustainable development of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha region for the benefit of all the interested parties including the wildlife of the primeval forest. On the contrary, the Diploma is often being put to completely different uses, such as covering narrow departmental interest or activities that are inconsistent with the aforementioned foundations".

The representatives of the public pointed to many environmental problems in Belovezhskaya Pushcha which are leading toward the ruin of that unique area of wilderness. A management plan for the national park has been developed and adopted in 2008. What has been accomplished within the year? The annual report is still absent. "There is something different we are observing about the national park's current activities, namely, the fact that the huge secret commercial operations remain inconsistent not just with the management plan but with the rules and recommendations of the Diploma and the environmental laws. This climaxed in a bison hunt for foreign hunters in a strictly protected area", as is said in the appeal. The construction of a hunting enclosure which involves conversion of a vast 3000 hectare old-growth forest area to be intensively used for commercial operations, going-on wide-scale logging and other commercial operations, no confirmation about stopping plans to “transform” the Pravaya Lesnaya River are mentioned.

"We can see no wish of the national park's administration seriously considering the management plan as guidance, with an intention to follow and implement it", it is resumed in the letter. "We are proposing to take another year's break before making the final decision on possible renewal of the Diploma. The break would be followed by a verification of proper compliance with the management plan in 2011. The verification process should involve CE and UNESCO experts. If the assessment were positive, the national park's management would have the Diploma renewed". "If the CE experts suggest its renewal as obligatory and the only possible decision for today, we do ask to find a compromise, for example, to renew the Diploma conditionally on a temporary basis, i.e. for a period of two or three years", the representatives of the public end their letter.

Let's remind that the national park has gained the prestigious award in 1997 for successes in preservation of its wild nature. After an experts' examination of implementation of the Diploma recommendations in 2001 and an appeal of the Belarusian public, additional provisions have been put. In 2007 the Diploma was suspended until the management plan for the national park for the nearest 10 years will be developed. A year later the plan was complete with participation of the scientists of the National Academy of Sciences and the experts of the national park. However, a few attempts to ratify it in the Council of Europe have not been come to success, as of basically organizational fails and technical discrepancy. In some days the next session is held at which the European experts will discuss the future and terms of renewal of the Diploma.

The overall text of the letter can be red here.