NEWS ARCHIVE: MARCH 2011

March 24, 2011 "Komsomolskaya Pravda in Belarus" (The Komsomol Truth in Belarus) newspaper A winner of the auction for bison refused to hunt the beast


Bison is a heritage and pride of the country.
Photo from archive
The right to shoot the inhabitant of Belovezhskaya Pushcha was sold for 40,000 Euros.

In early February, Belarus put up the right to hunt bison for auction. Let's recall that a bison from the reserve gene pool group was proposed as a lot, that means one which cannot be used for selection and breeding. For example, this bison was included in the list of the reserve gene pool group because its leg was sore, so being bad for walking. Bidding began with 40,000 Euros and was completed by 28th February. However, the result of the auction has been reported as nothing.

"The winner has not bought the lot, while the remaining members who had stakes said that they are no longer interested in this. In fact, the auction faile," Sergei Sosunkevich, deputy head of the Tourism Department of the State Establishment "TsentrKurort" (this organization is responsible for conducting the auction), told to Komsomolskaya Pravda.

The maximum bid at the auction amounted to 40,500 Euros. The winner did not call the reason for his refusal. However, it is possible that the hunter was just afraid of the negative public opinion. For example, information about the auction caused a bad reaction among users of social networks and blogs.

"Will the auction be repeated?"

"Not yet."

"And what is about the bison now?

"It still lives in the hunting gtound owned by the National Park "Belovezhskaya Pushcha". But we must understand that this bison is sick and the ranger will shoot it, sooner or later. And the National Park will not receive money from the hunt. This money could be used, for example, for the purchase of feed and for keeping of other bison."

Olga Antipenko
March 18, 2011 "Respublika" (The Republic) newspaper, No 50 Go to "the Tsar's Meadow "on the bicycle

Rental shop is open at the front gate of the National Park "Belovezhskaya Pushcha", a place where visitors leave their vehicles.

Making efforts to pedals, a tourist can follow one of four routes. Their scheme is that everyone goes through the Tsar's Meadow, a place in the Forest where princes and monarchs together with their close milieu were resting after hunting in the past. Today, a fabulous residence of Belarusian Father Frost is near, around the highest spruce tree in the forest.

Sightseeing bike ride along this route costs 4100 rubles (~$1,5). If tourists choose a more distant way, it will cost to him a bit expensive, but the route in the protected forest will be more interesting. In addition, tourists pay 6,000 rubles (~$2) for one hour of rental bicycle. 40 bikes are now here, bur they will soon be 70.
March 15, 2011 "Vecherniy Brest" (The Evening Brest) newspaper Belovezhskaya Pushcha opens the season for bicyclists

On March 16, the National Park "Belovezhskaya Pushcha" officially starts the spring season for tourists – bicycle routes for amateurs of the active recreation are opened in the Reserve. There are four routes, with different levels of difficulty, extending from 10 to 27 km. On the same day the bicycle rental is possible - a two-wheeled machine can be rented directly at the cash desk near the Park's entrance with paying 6,000 rubles (~$2) per hour per person. The National Park is now ready to give for bike-travellers about 40 bicycles, and they will soon be added with another 30 ones. The route travelling should also be paid: the cycling during one and half hour to the Tsar's Meadow will cost 4,100 rubles ($1,5) for one tourist, and "Big Trip" of 27 km will cost 6,600 rubles (~$2).
March 15, 2011 Website "Naviny.by" Ecologist Kazulka called Lukashenko for "stopping the destruction of Belovezhskaya Pushcha"

Ecologist Heorhi Kazulka, former deputy director of research for the National Park "Belovezhskaya Pushcha", addressed to Alexander Lukashenko an open letter in which he urged to take measures to "stop the destruction of Belovezhskaya Pushcha and make it strictly protected."

As Kazulka imformed BelaPAN, a letter was sent to the Presidential Administration on March 11.

"Belovezhskaya Pushcha as a unique primeval forest is dying slowly but surely", the ecologist says. According to him, the main problem is that the well-conserved part of Belovezhskaya Pushcha is significantly smaller than the one exposed to industrial use. It is just over 30,000 hectares, or 34 percent of the relic forest area, the ecologist said. "But the remaining larger part of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha primeval forest are subject to intense economic activity, which slowly kill the forest, such as large-scale logging, artificial plantation, hunting and amelioration," the letter says.

Kazulka argues that even in the strictly protected zone of Belovezhskaya Pushcha "commercial hunting including bay hunting and involving foreigners, gathering of berries and mushrooms and other commercial and economic activities have already become commonplace here."

Kazulka insists on a radical restructuring of the National Park that he dealt with "only its direct duties." "Other businesses should get other owners", he believes.
March 14, 2011 Website "Second National Channel (ONT)" Video: On the forest edge

Residents of several towns and villages in eastern Poland - Hajnowka, Bialowieza and Narewka - are struggling with the Warsaw government officials for their rights. By the way, the most people here are not Poles but ethnic Belarusians and Ukrainians. The fact is that the change in the law to expand the Bialowieza National Park is now in the Seim. But if it is so, then the overall economic activity will be banned here, and if take only one village of Bialowieza, at least 600 people will lose their means of livelihood. This is a tragedy for people living in the region not well economically prosperous.

Our TV-channel has already told in the autumn of last year about the problems of the Polish part of Bialowieza Forest. The locals were unhappy with mismanagement. It reigns within the area of the Reserve. Because of environmental ban, hundreds of cubes of wood simply rot in the Bialowieza Forest, whereas small local enterprise should stop businesses which are unprofitable. Despite this, environmentalists continue to insist that the entire Bialowieza Forest should become a national reserve, and the economic activities and deforestation is necessary either to ban completely, or reduce to a minimum. Alas, no one paid any attention to the problems of the Polish par of the Forest and its residents. Meanwhile, the situation continued to run high. Socio-economic and even political implications appeared in the local environmental problems. Under the influence of environmentalists, amendments to the law on local self-government are in the Polish Seim. They are to deprive of self-government rights to influence the fate of their territories. And if the Seim approves the amendments, the local authorities can no longer resist the initiatives of the Warsaw government officials and environmentalists. The initiative so original for the free country is motivated by freedom of opinion: 250,000 Poles gave their signatures in favor of the future Reserve.

This Polish village is already within the Reserve. Together with the environment and its advocates, the problems became more numerous, according to villagers. They did not wish for their neighbors, who are not yet in the area of the Reserve, to share the same fate.

Pawel Kalinowsky, a resident of the village of Masewo (Poland): "Half the houses are empty, no job. Only old people are living here. The young ones have left. No one solves the problem, even not to speak. I talked with a forester and he said that he was forbidden to speak on this topic. But we have a free country."

Helena Bura, a villager of Masewo (Poland): "In the forest where environmentalists are hosted is worse than after the war. All is rotten. One cannot go without rubber boots. Snakes and bunches of garbage are numerous. These environmentalists, they have at 400 Zlotys a day for their so-called "work and care." It's not even business. This is meanness. They only care about money. And where we go, where to get all of these small family businesses? How will they live? After all, we cannot be offered such a pension, like ecologists get, to 400 Zlotys per day."

Eastern Poland, and in particular the Podliaskie province, is an area economically not the most promising and rich, and local investments from the center - from Warsaw or from Bialystok - are not always the case to reach this region for its economic development. Local authorities do not understand why the center, instead of aid, further complicates their lives.

Albert Litwinovicz, head of the administration of the village of Bialowieza (Poland): "Unfortunately, the Polish laws are like if you create a strictly protected zone, it automatically leads to discrimination against people of that territory. So, we have calculated that 120 people will lose their jobs after the National ark will be enlarged to cover the whole territory of the commune "Bialowieza", plus their families getting the total figure of 600. All the population of "Bialowieza" is 2,300. They, of course, will be next for unemployment benefits. The budget of the commune cannot stand this. If the Park expands its borders, tax revenues from the Park will be 50 percents less than we now get from the state forests. That's the law. Of course, we are against. The government, rather than to fund nature conservation, wants it all done at the expense of residents, that they pay for it."

Poles largely see the reason for this attitude in the activities of ecologists. They think that the interest of the "greens" is paid in the "green" currency. Many villagers of Bialowieza actually do not want to let environmentalists enter into the house. Zinaida Buszko owns a private hotel. The day before, she literally turned a "green" company out of her apartments. She consider solidarity with neighbors more important than earnings.

Zinaida Buszko, a hotel owner: "You cannot buy all things for money, first of all, the trust of people! We as local residents must decide this, not someone who will come from somewhere. This is our business! And do not make monkeys of us! We want to be humans! They do not understand how we live here, in what conditions we live. They carry out their mission. And please note, not free of charge.".

While some refuse earnings because of solidarity, the other because of despair. Ignatius Glat earns through delivery of firewood to local residents. However, it seems he will be forced to abandon this business. There well be either nothing to deliver, or very unprofitable.

Ignatius Glat, a private entrepreneur: "If you go from here to the town of Hajnowka, turn left and walk, so there are thousands of dead trees standing and rotting. It's hundreds of cubes of wood. As to the whole forest, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of cubic meters of such trees. It is horror! It is only in Poland to be so stupid, whereas in other countries the government will allow nothing like this! And foresters cannot say anything, because they were warned and banned from the ministry to keep silence, or they will have problems."

Foresters (the local population supports them), in fact, declined to communicate. Even the efforts of the local administration were powerless to help for this.

According to environmentalists, the natural ecosystem should look like this. And the more such places, the better. However, as it turned out, they do not want the evil to the residents. They say it's officials, not environmentalists, lead people up the garden path.

Robert Tziglizky, director of "Greenpeace-Polald": "Local residents feel cheated. They get trickery not the first time. Minister of the Environment Protection has promised them that all the trees that are cut down in Bialowieza Forest will go to the needs of local residents. But it is not yet for today. We only want to limit logging in areas of particular ecological value. We do not want evil."

Alas, these arguments ring hollow in the Bialowieza area. Both the population and local authorities insist that the interest of ecologists is not only environmental and their approach is not entirely objective.

Environmental concerns of residents of the Bialowieza area and ecologists do not match. Here is one example. Here, a few hundred meters from the village of Dubinska, according to residents, there wanted to make a polygon for destruction of munitions on the farm, one kilometer from the Bialowieza Forest. The local authorities have so far managed to block this initiative, but it is not known for certain what would be the final decision. Meanwhile, the explosions, according to residents, sound now here and then, and for a long time.

Leon Hliabicz, an environmentalist, defender of the Bialowieza Forest: "People have realized that using environmental problems one can effortlessly get business and make good money. They go on call, with getting money, and arrange any action. Our mass-media show this, and no one aspires to objective evaluation but all seek a sensation. So, environmentalists provide them this sensation. They are hired and get money, so they are working not because they need the protection of nature. They know about the nature no more than about how to sprinkle flower on the windowsill. I know what business is on the Belarusian side of the Bialowieza Forest. There's no such devastation of the Forest as we have. Wood does not lie and does not rot. And the environment is also in order. But we allowed all self-flowing."

In this situation, people perceive the prospect of depriving local authorities of powers no other way than as an infringement on their rights and freedoms. They consider environmentalists as only means to achieve one's goals, not so much environmental as political effect.

Sophia Fedoruk, a resident of Hajnowka (Poland): "They came to us to restore the Bialowieza Forest. For what expense? Do we have to pay for it? Our children are fleeing to England, to Warsaw to Krakow. No work, nothing around. So let them close us to the reservation, like the Indians, as some kind of separate "Class" of people, and to show us like in the zoo. And people from the west will come here and look at us. Our population here is not so numerous but we also want to live." Alas, either arguments which are more similar to pre-election campaign were not convincing, or they couldn't hold themselves in. Visitors from Warsaw, unfortunately, has not changed attitudes toward the current situation.

Eugeniusz Ostapczuk, a restaurant owner: "I am not a politician, but even a careful observer with unaided eye sees that it's all controlled, it happens for particular reason. It is not because someone saw the Forest for no reason and began to defend it. This is a political case for sure. I like the inhabitants of these places is very unfortunate that we are under management in this way. The fact is that many Belarusians amd Ukrainians live here. The most of them are ethnic minorities. I do not know but maybe the talking is about how to eliminate these minorities. If this policy continues, people will leave. This is discrimination against these people. I'm sorry."

Apparently, this spring somebody's campaign slogans will flourish on the Bialowieza environmental grounds, along with flowers forget-me-not. By the autumn, when it comes to elections to the Seim, it is quite possible that someone will bring a good bunch of votes. Locals are hoping that if someone will use the situation in his favor, he will not forget about their problems, as well as how the road to Bialowieza looks, though it still not the best.

(You can see the video clip by downloading the file from here)
March 11, 2011 BP-21 Website News Service Stop the destruction of Belovezhskaya Pushcha and turn it into a true wilderness and wildlife reserve!

click to enlarge in the new window
Environmentalist and a resident of Belovezhskaya Pushcha Heorhi Kazulka today publicly addressed to the head of Belarus in connection with the catastrophic environmental situation which covered the oldest and most titled forest in Europe.

Public inspections and recent information from local foresters that the situation in the forest is not just threatening but catastrophic were the reason for this appeal. This is due to excessive, large-scale logging for the industrial purposes. The natural ecosystem of Belovezhskaya Pushcha is unable to meet the demands of the large timber processing complex of the National Park. Therefore, major efforts of timber merchants are now concentrated in the most ecologically valuable and least disturbed stands of the southern forest areas of Belovezhskaya Pushcha. The plan for timber harvesting is implemented at any price, while the nature conservation, environmental science, legislation and the calculated standards are not obstacles to this, even in case of their violation. The letter contains horrific facts of the destruction of the relict forest by modern businessmen from the pyramid of the management of the National Park, although their official duties are to preserve its ecosystem.

"Belovezhskaya Pushcha as a unique primeval forest is dying slowly but surely." "The wild nature and biodiversuty of Belovezhskaya Pushcha primeval forest sustained immense damage!" "Living in the center of the twenty-first-century Europe, we are witnessing a true tragedy: the death of the last major remnant of the primeval lowland forest." "Belovezhskaya Pushcha is facing both an environmental and humanitarian disaster." These are conclusions made in the letter by the independent ecologist.

As the main problem it is indicated that the strictly protected part of Belovezhskaya Pushcha is significantly smaller than the one exposed to industrial use. It is just over 30,000 hectares, or 34 percent of the relic forest area and 18 percent of the National Park’s total territory of approximately 164,000 hectares. The remaining larger part of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha primeval forest and around are subject to intense economic activity, slowly killing the forest, such as large-scale logging, artificial plantation, hunting and amelioration. But even the Wilderness Protection Zone where wildlife should be intact and any economic activity is illegal, is facing secret exploitation in the last decade (commercial hunting, gathering of berries and mushrooms).

Heorhi Kazulka believes that the only correct way out is to expand the strictly protected zone over the entire historical part of Belovezhskaya Pushcha to stop any commercial operations at last and create a mechanism to preserve the entire primeval forest, turning Belovezhskaya Pushcha into a true wilderness and wildlife reserve! And designate it as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Environmental scientists have said this for a long time and more than once. The idea was officially suggested for the first time in 2007 and was promised to time it with the 600th anniversary of nature protection in Belovezhskaya Pushcha (October 2009). However, they have not delivered on those promises and no one already remembers this. In this regard, Heorhi Kazulka considers the today implemented project on construction of a new ring road around the perimeter of Belovezhskaya Pushcha dangerous as it poses one more serious threat to the pristine wilderness. If Belovezhskaya Pushcha is not urgently to be truly protected, the areas of the old-growth relic forest, yet inaccessible and economically little-developed due to natural reasons, will suffer from numerous tourists.

Drastic steps by top government officials, which are offered in the letter of ecologist Heorhi Kazulka, would need to be taken to remedy the current, generally disastrous, situation of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha wildlife, wilderness and old-growth relic forest.

The full text of the Open letter to the President of Belarus can be red here
March 10, 2011 Website "OPEN.BY" Herd of bison in Belovezhskaya Pushcha now stands at 415 individuals

Herd of bison in the National Park "Belovezhskaya Pushcha" has increased by 23 individuals over the past year and currently stands at 415. BelTA learned it from the administration of the National Park.

The inventory of ungulates in Belovezhskaya Pushcha is held annually during the winter. During this period animals are near the feeding grounds and it is easier to count them.

The winter inventory has shown 48 bison calves of the age of less than one year are growing up in Belovezhskaya Pushcha. Another 46 animals are of the age from 1 year to 3.5 years. Males and females in this subgroup make approximately the equal amounts - respectively 22 and 24 individuals. The number of adult bison (over 3.5 years) is 233. Females dominate – 155, while males are 78.

At present the bison population is the highest in number since the early restoration in Belovezhskaya Pushcha in 1946.

Bison is a heaviest and largest land mammal on the European continent. Once these majestic animals inhabited the territory of modern Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Don River basin and the Greater Caucasus. By the beginning of the twentieth century bison were preserved only in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha and the Caucasus. The first world ward became the disaster for bison. Last freely living bison was killed in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha in 1921, and in the Caucasus in 1926. Bison were survived thanks to zoological gardens and parks of acclimatization in several countries which kept some dozens of these animals. First five bison bought in Poland were brought in the Belarusian part of Pushcha in 1946. Their farming in the free natural conditions began here in 1953.

The current number of the Pushcha's giants already exceeds the optimum which is recommended for this territory. This allows the National Park to work with zoos and nature reserves and to relocate the animals to other areas. So, over the past few years Belovezhskaya bison were moved to the Berezinsky Biosphere Reserve and the National Park "Pripyatskiy", while the bison couple Belovezhskiy San Sanych and Barynya became permanent residents of the Minsk Zoo. The National Park "Belovezhskaya Pushcha" has also the experience of cooperation with Russia: about 10 years ago the National Park "Orlovsky Polesie" requested to send some amount of bison but also red deer, wild boar and even swans.

BelTA Information Agency
March 10, 2011 "Vecherniy Brest" (The Evening Brest) newspaper A road bypass going around Belovezhskaya Pushcha will start at the border checkpoint "Peschatka"

The addition to the project is introduced by the Presidential decree No 78. Prior to that, it was assumed that the road line will begin near the village of Volkostavets of the Kamenetz district, although representatives of the Brest region insisted to get precisely Peschatka as the "starting point" at the development of the bypass scheme. According to the decree, the section of 17 km of the road will connect the border crossing with the already built highway near the village of Omelyanets. Let's recall the construction of the car bypass along the perimeter of Belovezhskaya Pushcha began last spring and should be completed by the end of this year.
March 04, 2011 "Narodnaya Gazeta" (He People's Newspaper) newspaper Echo of the shot

Poachers to shoot for 15 million Rubles (~ $ 5,000) of the penalty.

Two hunters decided to hunt not just anywhere, but in Belovezhskaya Pushcha, and were caught.

At night on February 12, the poaching duo, armed with a fife-cartridge smoothbore shotgun "Benelli" with the back sight of night vision goggles, drove up using a quad to a herd of wild boars which emerged from the forest to feed. Being shot several times at animals, the would-be hunters killed a wild boar female and escaped from the scene. Echo of the shots sounded near the village of Omelyanets, Kamenetz district, located in the National Park "Belovezhskaya Pushcha". The din attracted the attention of employees of the Brest Regional Inspectorate of Flora and Fauna who were in the raid. They together with the National Park's staff went to the place of the alleged illegal hunting. Officers of the Kamenetz Police Department were urgently called too. Now a passion for easy prey will "backfire" for the offenders of criminal responsibility and a severe blow to their pocket: poachers have to reimburse the state about 15 million Rubles (~ $ 5,000) for the extraction of the wild boar female which was, as it revealed, with six embryos of pigs.

Constantin Tsybulskiy
March 03, 2011 Website "Virtual Brest" Construction of a bypass road around Belovezhskaya Pushcha should be completed this year

As soon as the warmer, road builders will continue works to build a bypass road around Belovezhskaya Pushcha.

"All the dirty work is over," says Director General of "BrestOblDorStroy" Petr Skorobogat'ko. "While laying the road last year, it had to cut down the forest, to excavate and remove peat in the lowlands, and to supply big amounts of sand and gravel for the filling bank roadway and building pads for asphalt. When the earth thawed, road workers will begin laying blacktop. About 20 road construction companies are involved in the work on the Belovezhskaya Pushcha's BAM (that is the road around the core of the protected forest nicknamed by the locals). "BrestOblDorStroy" and "BrestAvtoDor" are serving as general contractors. Other construction companies help them as subcontractors. The National Park as the customer is also involved in the construction works. It, like anyone else, is interested in seeing that the road appeared as soon as possible. Putting it into operation is scheduled prior to November 7. The bypass will relieve from the transport the forest area and will help attract investments to build the road infrastructure.

Source: News Service of the Broadcasting Company "Brest"