Environmental group Greenpeace hoisted a huge banner with a heart across the facade of Poland's environment ministry in Warsaw Wednesday, warning logging threatened Europe's last first-growth forest.
"We expect the minister to halt logging in the Bialowieza forest until new forest management plans are drawn up which limit logging to the minimum required for local residents and ban it during (bird) nesting season," Robert Cyglicki, head of Greenpeace Poland, told reporters.
Greenpeace also wants the expansion of the Polish national park which currently covers some 17 percent of the Bialowieza forest.
Six Greenpeace activists from Poland, Austria, Finland and Hungary scaled the environment ministry building in Warsaw and strung a huge banner featuring an enormous heart saying "I love puszcza" (I love the forest) across it.
In response, Environment Minister Andrzej Kraszewski told reporters he loved the Bialowieza forest too, and that its expansion was a matter to be negotiated with local communities.
A week ago Polish environmentalists warned deforestation was threatening Bialowieza's flora and fauna and said they had complained to the EU over logging practices.
But Polish forestry officials deny any logging for commercial purposes in Bialowieza, saying that only diseased or infested trees are being felled.
The vast Bialowieza forest, which covers some 140,000 hectares (345,000 acres) and spans the Polish-Belarussian border, is the final remnant of a massive woodland that spread across Europe after the last Ice Age, which ended about 10,000 years ago.
About 800 European bison live there freely, half of them on the Polish side. It is also home to rare bird species and lynx.