A Polish proposal to increase logging in the ancient Białowieża Forest is drawing fresh criticism from scientists. They suspect that the motives are partly commercial, and dispute claims that an outbreak of bark beetle threatens the forest. The Polish Ministry of the Environment says that there is no commercial benefit to the proposed logging and insists that it is needed for pest control.
A Białowieża management plan limits logging in the forest to 48,000 cubic metres of wood per year — enough to allow locals to gather firewood. But on 10 November, the local forest administration proposed an amendment that would allow large-scale logging in sections outside the central 17% of the forest that is a national park. They cited an outbreak of the bark beetle pest (Ips typographus) in Białowieża’s Norway spruce (Picea abies). In one forest district where logging is currently limited to 6,000 m3 per year, the allowable yearly volume would increase to 53,000 m3.
On 18 November, scientists with Poland’s State Council for Nature Conservation condemned the proposal; public protests have followed. Polish biologists express other concerns in two Correspondence articles in Nature (P. Chylarecki and N. Selva Nature 530, 419; 2016; P. Michalak Nature 530, 419; 2016).