Europe’s top court has issued a warning to Poland to stop its illegal logging of the Białowieża Forest or face fines of nearly $120,000 per day, according to several news outlets. The ecosystem is the last remnant of Europe’s primeval forest and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Polish government last year supported a threefold increase in logging within protected areas of the Białowieża Forest as a means of fighting a spruce bark beetle infestation and to curb the risk of forest fires. But activists and scientists argue that the level of logging is unsustainable, causing irreparable damage to the old-growth ecosystem, which is home to 250 bird species and 59 mammal species, including the world’s largest population of free-ranging European bison.
Logging trees that are 100 years and older, such as those in the Białowieża Forest, is illegal under European Union law. The European Court of Justice ordered Poland to suspend its cutting operations in July except for in areas where it is necessary to ensure public safety. But European officials claim Poland hasn’t complied with the order and that heavy logging of the forest continues today.
The European court’s announcement this week said that if Poland “is found to have infringed this order, the Court will order it to pay… a penalty payment of at least €100,000 per day.” It has given Poland 15 days to provide evidence that it has reduced logging activities.