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EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

2009 - 2014


<Commission>{PETI}Committee on Petitions


{30/01/2013}30.01.2013

NOTICE TO MEMBERS

Subject: Petition 0372/2007 by Adam Bohdan, Polish, on behalf of ‘Pracownia na rzecz wszystkich Istot - Oddział Podlaski’, on the failure of the Polish authorities to implement the EU’s environmental legislation in forestry management in the Bialowieza national park in eastern Poland</TITRE>

1. Summary of petition

<TEXTE>The petitioner complains about the way in which the Polish authorities responsible are managing the Bialowieza national park in eastern Poland, on the border with Belarus, and claims that they are persistently infringing the EU’s birds and habitats directives. He points out that the park is particularly rich in fauna. The largest animal in Bialowieza, and in Europe as a whole, is the European bison. Apart from the bison, elks, wild boar, deer, roe deer and beavers also live in the park. Among the larger predators there are wolf and lynx. No fewer than 130 bird species nest in the park, including the black stork and the crane, along with a number of rare woodpeckers. The petitioner says that excessive tree-felling, in particular the felling of medium-age and old trees, by the forestry service is resulting in loss of, or damage to, the habitat of these species. He therefore asks the European Parliament to take immediate steps to ensure the effective protection of this unique natural environment.TEXTE>

2. Admissibility

Declared admissible on 4 September 2007. Information requested from Commission under Rule 192(4).


3. Commission reply, received on 12 February 2008.

The petitioner is concerned about the level of protection for the Bialowieza Primeval Forest in Poland and Belarus and, in particular, forest management on the Polish side of the border.

[The same concerns were already raised in 2006 by the member of the European Parliament, Magdalena Mosiewicz (petition no. 489/2006)].
The petitioner provides additional information on the impact of forest management practice on two species of woodpeckers Dendrocopos leuctos and Picoides tridactylus listed in Annex 1 of the Birds Directive (79/409/EEC1), which are subject to protection under the Birds Directive and the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC2) in the Natura 2000 site, PLC200004 Bialowieza Forest, designated by the Polish government in 2004.
The Commission, in its response to petition no. 489/2006 on the subject of nature protection in the Bialowieza Forest, has already provided explanations on the protection status of the Natura 2000 site and applicable legal instruments in Poland, as well as clarification on the Community competence with regard to the part of the forest within the territory of Belarus.
Regarding the additional information on the relationship between forest management and the occurrence of the two species of woodpecker, it is insufficient to allow the Commission to conclude whether the forest management practice on the site after its inclusion in the Natura 2000 network (May 2004) has any negative impact on the species. The scientific references quoted by the petitioner date either from the pre-accession period, or from early 2005 – less than a year after inclusion of the site in the Natura 2000 network. However, the references made by the petitioner to the general link between forest management and ensuring that a suitable habitat is available for the species within the Natura 2000 site would appear to have some relevance for the conservation of the two species.
The Commission will contact the Polish authorities regarding the conservation status of the two species of woodpeckers and the management measures undertaken to ensure their long-term survival.

4. Commission reply, received on 26 October 2009.

A first meeting between Commission's representatives and the Polish Ministry of Environment to discuss forest management issues related to the protection of Natura 2000 sites, including the case of Bialowieza Forest and the needs of the woodpecker species, took place on 31 October 2008. Both the Department of Forestry and the Department of Nature Protection of the Ministry of Environment were present. As a result of the meeting, the Polish authorities agreed to propose a procedure for conducting a strategic impact assessment of forestry management plans.


At a further meeting with Polish environmental authorities on 16 June 2009, the so-called 'package meeting', the Commission raised the issue of the need for appropriate forest management to ensure the conservation of the species and habitats within the Natura 2000 PLC200004 Bialowieza Forest site, as well as to review forest management plans for all forest districts overlapping with Natura 2000 sites. The Polish environmental authorities and the General Directorate of State Forests agreed to review, by June 2011, in the light of the conservation needs of Natura 2000 sites, all the forest management plans approved after the accession of Poland to the EU for the forest districts (nadlesnictwo) overlapping with Natura 2000 sites. Given that it concerns over two hundred of the forest management plans, this timescale was considered acceptable by the Commission. In the particular case of the Natura 2000 Bialowieza Forest site, the Regional Director of State Forests had already requested the review and revision of the forest management plan for that site. The review process was due to start in August 2009.
The Commission will follow the development of the new forest management plan for the Natura 2000 Bialowieza Forest site.

5. Commission reply, received on 2 September 2010

In May 2010 the Commission requested the Polish authorities to provide information about the state of play in the development of the new forest management plan and about the first results of the assessment process. Unfortunately, up to now the Commission has not received any reply to this request.


In the meantime, the Commission has received directly from the petitioner additional documentation about the on-going damage to the protected habitats and species (saproxilic beetles) in the Białowieża Forest. The petitioner also indicated that he would forward further documentation concerning the damage caused to protected woodpecker species, which at present is being analysed by national zoologists. The Commission will examine these documents and will consider the need for further steps, including measures provided for in Article 258 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

6. Commission reply, received on 11 February 2011

The problems of protection of the Białowieża Forest were discussed at a meeting between the European Commission and the Polish authorities in Warsaw in September 2010 (package meeting – dedicated to discussing infringements and complaints concerning the transposition and implementation of EU environmental law in Poland). During this meeting, the Polish authorities informed the Commission that a new forest management plan was being prepared for the forest districts overlapping the Białowieża Forest. This plan will integrate the requirements resulting from the inclusion of this area into the Natura 2000 network. It is scheduled for adoption in 2011 and will be binding from 2012 for ten years.

Prior to the package meeting, the representatives of the Commission met with environmental NGOs from Poland, including the petitioner, who provided the Commission with additional information on the alleged breaches of the Birds and Habitats Directive in the Białowieża Forest.

In October, the Polish media reported that the Polish Minister of Environment, in a decision of October 2010, ordered a substantial reduction of the amount of timber harvested in the Białowieża Forest during 2011. This is, undoubtedly, a step in the right direction to safeguard the site's conservation status.

The Commission will continue to monitor the situation with regard to the protection of the Białowieża Forest. Any further course of action will depend on the steps taken by the Polish authorities (adoption of the forest management plan) and the information provided by the petitioner and other NGOs.

7. Commission reply, received on 6 September 2011 (REV. IV)

In June 2011, the petitioner provided the Commission with additional information claiming new potential breaches of the Birds and Habitats Directives resulting from forest management carried out in the Bialowieża Forest. The petitioner alleges that the Polish authorities continue to breach EU nature legislation by allowing tree felling in the habitats of protected saproxylic beetles and woodpeckers, by killing protected species of beetles through the destruction of their breeding and resting places and by deliberately disturbing protected species of birds during their breeding season.


In the light of this information, as well as previous documents provided by the petitioner, on 27 June 2011 the Commission sent a formal request to the Polish authorities asking them to reply to the above allegations.

8. Further Commission reply, received on 27.01.2012 (REV. V)

On 30th June 2011, the Commission sent a formal request to the Polish authorities asking them to reply to the allegations presented by the petitioner. The authorities replied on 5th September 2011. The authorities did not agree with the petitioner's allegations and provided additional information concerning the management of the Bialowieża Forest. The Commission did not find this reply satisfactory and sent a supplementary request for information on 3rd November 2011. The Polish authorities replied on 18th November and the Commission is now assessing this latest submission.



9. Further Commission reply, received on 27 June 2012 (REV. VI)

In a letter of 23 December 2012, the Polish authorities informed the Commission that new forest management plans for the forest units overlapping the Białowieża Forest were being prepared in such a way as to secure consistency with the Natura 2000 management plan which has been drafted for the Białowieża Forest in parallel. According to the authorities, forest management plans were scheduled for adoption by the Minister of Environment by the end of March 2012. However, according to information provided by the petitioner in mid-April, these plans still have not been adopted by the Ministry of Environment as they did not guarantee sufficient protection for the ecological values of the forest (too high limits for tree felling and insufficient protection for the forest stands of over 100 years).


The problems of protection of the Białowieża Forest were discussed at a meeting between the European Commission and the Polish authorities in Warsaw on 22nd May 2012 (package meeting dedicated to discussing infringements and complaints concerning transposition and implementation of the EU environmental law in Poland). The future course of action will depend on clarifications provided by the authorities at that meeting and on the provisions of the forest management plans.
10. Further Commission reply, received on 30 January 2013 (REV. VII)
Further to the discussions at a meeting in Poland on 22 May 2012, the Polish authorities provided additional information about the progress regarding the protection of the Białowieża Forest. By letters of June and October 2012, the authorities informed the Commission that new forest management plans for the forest districts (nadleśnictwo) overlapping the Białowieża Forest had been adopted for the next 10 years. These plans approved a reduced timber harvesting limited to 47,000 m3/year for the whole forest, which seems to correspond to the ecological requirements of the forest conservation and is in line with the proposals of the conservation experts and environmental NGOs. Additionally, these plans provide for a number of safeguards such as a ban on timber harvesting in the oldest stands (older than 100 years) and in the most vulnerable ecosystems (e.g. riparian forests), a requirement to consult on sanitary cuts with the competent nature authorities, a requirement to leave a sufficient amount of dead wood in the forest, which should guarantee a better protection of the forest. Additionally, a number of dedicated measures aimed at maintaining or improving the conservation status of individual habitat types and species is also included.

In parallel, a specific Natura 2000 management plan is being prepared for the Białowieża Forest. This plan will provide a framework for the site conservation going beyond forest management activities. According to the authorities this plan should be adopted in the near future.




1 OJ L 103, 25.4.1979, p. 1-18.

2 OJ L 206, 22.7.1992, p. 7-50.


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