In depressing news, about 180,000 cubic meters of wood will be taken from the last of Europe’s primeval forests. The environmental minister in Poland declared that the Bialowieza Puszcza will be logged over the next decade.
The Bialowieza Puszcza was always famous to environmentalists and naturalists, but it became well known to everyone due to Alan Weisman’s best-selling book, The World Without Us. To understand how the world would fare if people disappeared, he looks at the few places still untouched by humans. Weisman describes the forest as, “the misty, brooding forest that loomed behind your eyelids when, as a child, someone read you the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales. Here, ash and linden trees tower nearly 150 feet, their huge canopies shading a moist, tangled understory of hornbeams, ferns, swamp alders and crockery-sized fungi.”
The forest was the result of extraordinary privilege. When people encroached on most of Europe’s forests, the Bialowieza became a royal hunting preserve first for kings of Poland and then for tsars of Russia. In 1921 it became a state nature preserve. In 1979 it became a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Although the land specifically designated a World Heritage site will remain untouched, about 180,000 cubic meters of lumber will be stripped from the forest in the next decade, dwarfing the 40,000 cubic meters that many people expected. Environmental groups, including Greenpeace, are protesting the decision. Anyone who wants to join them might considering visiting the forest—but visiting during a trip to Belarus, which has refrained from logging the Bialowieza Puszcza.