Europe and Central Asia

BirdLife Europe & Central Asia Press Release - 17 April 2018

Chainsaw massacre of Europe’s oldest forest ruled illegal


The European Court of Justice today rules that Polish logging activities in Białowieża forest are illegal.

The defiance of the Polish government to continue its large-scale logging activities in the Białowieża forest is in direct breach of the EU’s Habitats Directive [1]. The European Commission initially sued Poland for its logging of the forest, which is a Natura 2000 site and protected by the European Union, and also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Blaming an invasion of bark beetles, direct orders by the Polish Minister for the Environment allowed the logging not only to continue, but see its quota triple. Over 190 000 m2 of forest has been logged so far.

The judgement of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) “declares that Poland has failed to fulfil its obligations arising from those directives”. The ruling also points out that the logging activities violate the Birds Directive as the site is classed as a “special protection area” for birds.   

Ariel Brunner, Head of Policy at BirdLife Europe, says: The future of Europe’s nature hangs to a large extent on respecting the rule of law. The swift action taken by the Commission against Poland has stopped the chainsaw massacre of Europe’s most iconic forest, but only after substantial damage has already been done. Similar violations are happening all across Europe. The Commission must now show the same resolve in tackling the many other cases of illegal environmental destruction underway throughout Europe.  

Białowieża is what remains of the primeval forest which once spanned across Europe centuries ago. The protection of the forest is crucial for safeguarding biodiversity. The size and age of it makes this forest the home of hundreds of species including rare birds, insects and mammals, such as the endangered European Bison.



For further information, please contact:
Honey Kohan, Media Officer, Birdlife Europe 
Office: +32 (0)2 280 08 30
Mobile: +32 (0)483 55 95 43


[1] “The Habitats Directive ensures the conservation of a wide range of rare, threatened or endemic animal and plant species. […] Over 1.000 animal and plant species, as well as 200 habitat types, listed in the directive's annexes are protected in various ways.”

BirdLife Europe and Central Asia is a partnership of 48 national conservation organisations and a leader in bird conservation. Our unique local to global approach enables us to deliver high impact and long term conservation for the benefit of nature and people. BirdLife Europe and Central Asia is one of the six regional secretariats that compose BirdLife International. Based in Brussels, it supports the European and Central Asian Partnership and is present in 47 countries including all EU Member States. With more than 4100 staff in Europe, two million members and tens of thousands of skilled volunteers, BirdLife Europe and Central Asia, together with its national partners, owns or manages more than 6000 nature sites totalling 320,000 hectares.



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