Bialowieza Forest is one of the remaining parts of the primeval forest that used to stretch across the European Plain. It is home to giant spruce trees, oaks and ash trees, and more than 20,000 animal species. The most famous of these is the European bison. The forest stretches over parts of Poland and Belarus, and is Poland's only natural UNESCO world heritage site. It is also a Natura 2000 area.
On the Polish side, 17% of the forest is a national park. The remaining area is divided into three districts: the Bialowieza, Browsk and Hajnowka forest districts. Since Polish Environment Minister Jan Szyszko approved the proposal from State Forests Service to expand the planned logging areas in the Bialowieza forest district, the forest in now threatened by irreversible degradation of natural habitats. In the original Forest Management Plan (FMP) the maximum allowed volume of logged trees was 63,417 m³ during a period of ten years. With the new proposal, 188,000 m³ can be logged during the same period. The plan to expand the logging area is motivated by claims that this would help protect the remaining forest from spruce bark beetles that threaten spruce trees. Moreover, the logging would protect tourists and rangers from falling dead trees. However, these motivations are criticized by scientists and EJOs, who claim that the spruce bark beetle outbreak is a natural process that occurs in periods of 8-10 years. Moreover, according to the only published inventory of the concerned forest area, almost half of the trees marked for logging are not trees of species affected by the spruce bark beetle. Adding to the skepticism about claimed motives for the expanded logging are commercial interests. The State Forests Service is required to be financially self-sufficient, and selling logged wood generates profits. The State Council for Nature Conservation in Poland opposes the plans for expanded logging in Bialowieza Forest District. A large part of the public is against the new logging plans, protests in larger Polish cities displayed that discontent. According to Polish legislation (Forest Act), an approval from the Polish environment minister is enough to legalize the logging plans. As a consequence, seven EJOs together with ClientEarth have lodged a complaint against the plans to the EU commission, asking the EU commission to intervene (”Urgent need for the Commission to intervene” ). According to the lodged complaint, the logging plans go against several EU directives. E.g.: the approval of the environment minister was given despite not having carried out "an assessment to determine whether the increased logging would have an adverse effect on the integrity of the Natura 2000 site" . The EJOs want the EU commission ”to quickly intervene to halt the irreversible loss that would be caused by intense logging and to ensure the protection of the Bialowieza Forest in compliance with the Habitats Directive”. Both the European Commission and UNESCO have since then strongly advised the Polish government against continuing with the expanded logging project. Despite this, in February 2017 the Polish government announced that they will continue with the plans.