A spokesman for Poland's Environment Ministry says logging has started in parts of the nation's oldest forest, a development that aims to eliminating dying trees to ensure safety for tourists.

The ministry plan to fell trees affected by bark beetle in the Bialowieza Forest, which includes Europe's last primeval woodland, has drawn the ire of environmental groups who argue that nature will take care of itself. The European Commission has also expressed concern over the logging plan.

But Environment Minister Jan Szyszko insists that beetle-affected, dying trees in the forest need to be removed to stop the infestation.

Ministry spokesman Jacek Krzeminski told The Associated Press on Wednesday that in younger parts of the woods, foresters have begun felling sick trees along tourist routes.