BRUSSELS – Poland said Thursday it was glad it will have a chance to defend its logging in the ancient Bialowieza forest before a European Union court and implied that it knows better about the preservation of nature than western Europe.
The EU is taking legal action against Poland for allowing continued and increasing logging in the forest, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site as the last such natural forest on the continent.
The European Commission said it is seeking an interim measure from the EU Court of Justice to suspend the cutting down of trees "immediately."
Poland's environment ministry said Minister Jan Szyszko, who has authorized the increased logging, is ready to face the court and prove that everything is being done in line with EU law.
The ministry stressed in a statement that Poland's foresters and local residents have successfully restituted the population of Europe's biggest mammal, the bison, and other wild species.
"Many nations in Western Europe cannot say that about themselves," the ministry said.
The logging in Bialowieza in eastern Poland has drawn international criticism and protests by environmentalists. They allege the logging is done for profit and not for the forest's benefit.
Agata Szafraniuk with the ClientEarth environmental group said that "decisive and immediate action is the only way to avoid irreversible damage to this ancient forest."
Poland's government has said the increased logging is only carried out in younger sections traditionally used for timber production.
The forest covers tens of thousands of hectares (hundreds of thousands of acres) in Poland and Belarus and is home to hundreds of animal and plant species.