Poland Defies E.U. Ban on Logging in Ancient Forest


WARSAW — Defying an order from the European Union’s highest court, the Polish government said on Monday that it would continue logging in Bialowieza Forest, the last primeval forest in Europe and a habitat for hundreds of bison.

The decision is the latest challenge by Poland to the legal authority of the European Union, which Poland joined in 2004, and could result in financial penalties. The arch-conservative and nationalist government that took power in Poland in 2015 has been chastised by the authorities in Brussels; last week, it was formally warned that its efforts to consolidate power over the judiciary in Poland threatened the rule of law.

The Bialowieza Forest, a Unesco World Heritage site, is a relic of ancient woodlands in the middle of the European lowlands, at the border of Poland and Belarus.

It has been at the center of a heated debate since Poland’s government tripled the logging limits last year and, in February, repealed protections for areas that include a large number of trees that are more than a century old.

After months of debate between Warsaw and Brussels, the European Commission sued Poland before the top court of the European Union. In a preliminary decision on Friday, the European Court of Justice ordered that all logging in the forest, which is home to protected habitats and species, be immediately suspended.

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