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Battle for Europe's last ancient forest

Climate change, border disputes and the opposition of residents to expansion threaten eastern Poland's unique woodlands. Gabriela Baczynska reports

Source:  Copyright 2009, Independent (UK)
Date:  August 1, 2009
Original URL: Status ONLINE

A contest between competing needs of conservation and economic growth is threatening the future of large parts of Europe's last ancient forest. The 380,000-acre Bialowieza Primeval Forest, which straddles the border between Poland and Belarus, is one of the largest unpopulated woodlands remaining in Europe. It has been a Unesco World Heritage Site since 1979, is home to the continent's largest herd of bison, and resembles -- in appearance and the self-contained food chain it supports -- the fabled wildwood that covered much of Europe's plain, and, indeed, England before man intervened.

On the Polish side of the border, residents are opposing plans to extend the protected zone of this unique habitat, which is under threat from rising temperatures and declining rainfall. Encouraged by international conservation agencies, Warsaw wants to enlarge the area's national park, which occupies less than a fifth of the Polish part of the forest. It has offered up to 100 million ...

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