Bear dens and ancient trees face onslaught of logging in Poland


-A formidable wooded area control plan withinside the country’s Carpathian mountains is bringing nation foresters ever towards the dens of brown bears, a covered species were on the hunt for brown endure dens in Poland’s Carpathian mountains, at the border with Ukraine.

The lairs lie in the gnarled caverns that certainly shape at the bottom of decaying fir bushes once they get to approximately one hundred thirty years antique. Each den is barely different – a few have rocky bottoms, and others were covered with beech leaves, creating a form of forest mattress. Looking inner offers a perception of the man or woman of every endure, similar to touring a friend’s house.

We skip 1/2 of a dozen caverns in a 15-hectare (37-acre) place at the steep, rocky forest slope of Lutowiska wooded area district, simply out of-doors Bieszczady countrywide park. There are an anticipated a hundred and ten brown bears left in Poland and this slope is dense with dens and probable to be domestic to at least one mom and one or cubs, with many others passing thru.

The dens aren’t the simplest component to be aware on this phase of the wooded area, which is known as Lot seventy-three. There are bushes with fluorescent orange dots on them, which means they were marked for logging with the aid of using the authorities’ foresters. A milestone courtroom docket selection is briefly defensive of those bushes seeing that the wooded area is domestic to bears, an EU-covered species – however, their destiny lies withinside the balance. The 10-12 months wooded area control plan for this district (2015-2024) authorizes 8 instances extra wood to be eliminated than withinside the preceding decade. It is a tale this is repeated somewhere else withinside the final ultimate elements of Poland’s primeval mountain forests, the simplest 2-4% of which is exactly covered.

In a few respects, we’re on the threshold of Europe, however, the Carpathians are crucial for flora and fauna, stretching 1,500km (930 miles) from Austria spherical to Serbia, sheltering a number of the continent’s final virgin forests. Many mesmerizing creatures stay withinside the Polish part, together with the uncommon Ural owl and the 3-toed woodpecker. Some uncommon lichens and beetles thrive on lifeless and decaying wood, however, maximum human beings realize it as being domestic to massive predators which include brown endure, wolf, Eurasian lynx, and wildcat. The nearby stores promote refrigerator magnets, beers, and diverse preserves with pix of wolves and bear on them – the atypical hedgehog functions too.

I am on a ride organized with the aid of using Greenpeace Poland. We pressure right here from Kraków on a Sunday afternoon in October, passing all of the holidaymakers heading the alternative manner, again to city existence. It’s a hotspot for folks that love the outdoors – especially presently of 12 months.

Crisscrossing the forests are deep gullies created with the aid of using nation foresters, proof of the way a protracted record of logging is reducing this considerable antique-boom wooded area. “People that come from the towns see something great, and assume it appears good,” says our manual. “But for me, I’m seeing modifications and it’s were given in reality awful withinside the previous few years. We’re dropping key habitats at a quick tempo.”

My manual is a biologist who has labored in those woods for extra than 20 years. He can not be named due to the fact he has been threatened for talking out about the logging. In Poland, defensive herbal regions are turning into a more and more risky component to do. State foresters control 23% of the land in Poland and were closely criticized for deforestation somewhere else withinside the Unesco-covered Białowieża wooded area, which is likewise a primeval wooded area.

This wooded area isn’t always simply domestic to dens. Rotten logs are like breakfast bars for bears due to the fact they may be complete of grubs, however, massive chunks were eliminated. Bears love scratching up towards bushes and you may see regions in which the bark has been rubbed off excessively up at the trunk. This is likewise how they speak with one another. At the moment, they may be chatting a lot, as they may be out, charging their batteries with the aid of using consuming as a good deal as viable earlier than iciness hibernation.

Where bears see dens, human beings see paths and plywood. Some of the tallest, straightest beech bushes – every extra than one hundred years antique – have an “S” on them, which means sleek, or “plywood”. A squiggly line on others is in which the wooded area avenue will cross. Logging takes place all 12 months spherical. But younger bears, which weigh approximately 3kg every, will die if disturbed for the duration of the primary 3 months in their existence between December and March, the biologist says.

“This is a church for nature, now no longer a drafting board for human beings to place marks on each tree. People don’t have any recognition for nature,” says the biologist. “It will appear to be a bomb has long passed off as soon as they’ve completed running in right here.”

The foresters of the Lutowiska district have been instructed approximately the region of those endure dens in March 2020. But they nevertheless executed logging withinside the place subsequent door, Lot seventy-two, domestic to a comparable wide variety of enduring dens. The panorama appears so different, the biologist says he receives misplaced on foot thru it. The more youthful bushes that develop again aren’t treasured by flora and fauna withinside the identical manner as their predecessors. All over those hills, the forests have become more youthful.

From someplace withinside the valley, bushes may be heard being reduced. Lots seventy-two and seventy-three are each inside a Natura 2000 web website online, which means it needs to have the very best EU safety. The web website online is 70 meters from a countrywide park. “Day with the aid of using day, 12 months with the aid of using 12 months, the countrywide park will become extra of an island,” our manual says.

Hope for Lot seventy-three rests with the EU habitats directive, which says breeding habitats and resting locations for brown bears need to be covered due to the fact they may be labeled as a covered species. Crucially, these regions aren’t simply someplace bears by skip thru, they may endure maternity wards. An agency known as the Natural Heritage Foundation notified the government that the endure dens have been in use – endure tracks have been observed and there have been claw marks on bushes. And for the primary time, a local courtroom docket in Krosno has briefly suspended felling primarily based totally on the proof.

This selection has no precedent in Polish judicial records, despite this EU regulation being in the region seeing that Poland joined the bloc 18 years in the past. Campaigners say it may sign modifications withinside the criminal safety for wild animals threatened with the aid of using human activity.

“Until now, this safety became fiction,” says Radosław Michalski, president of the Natural Heritage Foundation. “We have proof that foresters in Lot seventy-two reduce proper after the endure den. The picture graph documentation indicates bushes which have strains of enduring claws and, at the identical time, dots implemented with the aid of using foresters, proving that those bushes have been meant for logging.”

Rafał Osiecki, a wooded area inspector for Lutowiska wooded area district, says foresters are privy to bears in masses seventy-two and seventy-three, however that there are strains of bears in almost all forests withinside the Bieszczady mountains, and that “wooded area control does now no longer purpose any terrible effect at the complete endure populace … Man has constantly controlled those regions.” He denies that those forests are antique-boom forests. “In the Bieszczady, one can not talk of primeval forests – such forests do now no longer exist right here, aside from small fragments of the countrywide park in which there are small fragments of primeval forests.”Rafał Osiecki, a wooded area inspector for Lutowiska wooded area district, says foresters are privy to bears in masses seventy-two and seventy-three, however that there are strains of bears in almost all forests withinside the Bieszczady mountains, and that “wooded area control does now no longer purpose any terrible effect at the complete endure populace … Man has constantly controlled those regions.” He denies that those forests are antique-boom forests. “In the Bieszczady, one can not talk of primeval forests – such forests do now no longer exist right here, aside from small fragments of the countrywide park in which there are small fragments of primeval forests.”

Osiecki says foresters make each attempt to make certain covered species continue to be covered. He says the populace of bears in Poland is increasing, which proves their habitat is good. He adds: “Nowhere in European regulation does it nation that it’s miles forbidden to perform any forestry sports if bears are gift withinside the place.”

Another part of this primeval wooded area isn’t always covered with the aid of using the regulation, however, with the aid of using activists stationed out of doors, the wooded area is close to the metropolis of Arłamów, an hour north of Lutowiska.

Their camp has all of the frugal markings of a hippy protest – a caravan, crates of apples, masses of mushroom soup, no wifi, no bathroom, and a chilly movement in preference to a shower. Mud receives anywhere and they play Dobble to byskip the time. “It’s a brand new component for the wooded area police and they don’t recognize what to do … They didn’t assume we’d live on iciness,” says Jòsefina Bendiuk, who’s right here together along with her partner, Dr. Jakub Rok, an economist who divides his time among right here and lecturing on the University of Warsaw. They are a part of a protest institution known as Wild Carpathians Initiative (Inicjatywa Dzikie Karpaty).

The activists are stationed on a logging route right into a wooded area that needs to where the deliberate Turnicki countrywide park in which bears and wolves are acknowledged to stay. Only 3% of this land is covered, so the relaxation is liable to logging. Wild Carpathians Initiative has effectively covered 70 hectares from being chopped down seeing that they commenced their profession in April 2021.

A banner blockading the foresters’ gully into the woods reads: “Here the final herbal forests are dying – assist stop them.” Attached to the banner is a platform approximately 10 meters excessive with a tiny tent on it, known as a “sky bed”, which looks as if it may be an excessive Airbnb experience. Whoever sleeps right here is on nighttime duty.

They can do that way to crowdfunding, grants, outside backers, and with the aid of using promoting T-shirts and jumpers at the avenue. The camp has been attacked in numerous instances, generally with the aid of using human beings who’ve been under the influence of alcohol to a good deal. On one occasion, an activist became attacked with a baseball bat. “The first days we couldn’t sleep we have been so scared,” says Benedick.

They are right here the fact nothing else has labored. “We attempted many tactics – protests, brief occupations, petitions – and that they’ve all been futile, so we determined we wished everlasting profession,” says Rok. They display forests to search for violations of the regulation they can publicize.

Bieszczady is the simplest and certainly considered one among Poland’s 23 countrywide parks positioned withinside the Carpathians. It became set up in 1973 and covers 29,000 hectares. Since the 1990s, the authorities have been speaking approximately increasing it with the aid of using 41,000 hectares, and developing a brand new place, Turnicki countrywide park, of extra than 17,500 hectares. Neither has happened.

“The Nature Conservation Act of 2004 offers nearby governments the proper to veto the introduction or growth of a countrywide park,” says Maciej Kałaska of the University of Warsaw. “Even the smallest commune can say no and the park will now no longer be built. Local government does now no longer even need to justify their statement. The law brought a long time in the past efficiently blocked all park-developing initiatives.”

Activists are joined with the aid of using extra than two hundred scientists in annoying the countrywide park plans cross ahead, with a moratorium on logging in the one’s regions till it takes place. The Polish Academy of Sciences has additionally been known for correct protections for primeval forests in an open letter to ministers. There are 320 protests towards logging around Poland, consistent with marketing campaign institution Forests and Citizens.

Rok says the protesters will live there till this paper park will become a reality.

Meanwhile, brown bears everywhere in the Carpathians are approximate to begin their iciness slumber, folding themselves into the bottom of antique fir bushes, hoping for a few months of peace because the protests rage on.

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