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Campaigners Call ‘Last Stand’ for Europe’s Last Ancient Forest

May 19, 2016 06:03 AM EDT

In one final attempt, environmentalist groups in Europe call to stop large-scale logging plans in Poland's Białowieża forest, the last primeval woodland in Europe.

Jan Szyszko, Poland's environment minister, gave the go signal for the large-scale logging last month, amidst protests from environmentalists. According to the government of Poland, more than 10% of spruce trees in Białowieża are already suffering from infestation of bark beetle, a kind of woodworm that kills trees-and logging, in this case, will help fight the outbreak.

Environmentalists, however, counter this by stating in a formal complaint that "the intensive wood extraction is a threat for priority habitats and species."

In an effort to stop logging plans, members of Greenpeace spread a banner over the Environment Ministry of Poland last month, which read "(Make) All of the Forest a National Park,"

Katarzyna Jagiełło, a spokesperson for Greenpeace, said in an interview with The Guardian: "The struggle to protect Białowieża and make it a national park is our Alamo. This place should be like our Serengeti or Great Barrier Reef. What happens to the forest here will define the future direction of nature conservation in our country."

Under the logging plan, loggers will harvest more than 180,000 cubic meters of wood from non-protected areas of the forest over a decade, a great leap from their previous plans of harvesting only 40,000 cubic meters over the same period.

With the recently passed logging law, which has caused an outrage from environmentalist groups and campaigners, the Białowieża logging is expected to raise over $180 million, and will set the pace for more extensive and lucrative logging activities.

Białowieża, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to Europe's largest wild bison population. Wolves and lynx are also known to roam freely around the forest, along with other 20,000 animal species.  

The forest's firs tower 160 feet, and oak trees are as high as 150 feet and have been there for more than 450 years. Its foliage stretches up to 1,000 square miles across the border, reaching Belarus. 

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