Few words about Białowieża Forest
Białowieża forest is not only our polish heritage since on 23 June 2014 entire area of Forest was accepted by UNESCO as natural heritage of humanity.
Białowieża Forest is without doubt the most known and the largest in Europe forest area with natural stand. The forest takes the area of 128 000 ha, out of which 58 000 are in Poland, the rest are located on Belarus side. On Polish side there is a Białowieża National Park (consists of 17% of forest).
Białowieża forest is the last remainder of primal forest in Middle European Plain that means the one without any traces of man influence. There is no woodcutting in this area, no afforestation, no cleaning of fallen trees. This is the place where nature governs itself, without human influence.
Since middle ages to around XII century human activity in the area was gradually lessened. Settlements caused many forests to disappear. Today’s Białowieża Forest was part of a greater forest on areas near Grodno and Polesie. Only when Zygmunt III Waza took over, the forests were included into royal goods. Royal protection caused the pillage management of man to stop. Hunting and settling were forbidden and special forest force was established, and to use any of forest’s good one would need special permission.
Next rulers were gradually introducing small industry to the forest e.g. tar-making. Then small human hubs started to appear throughout the forest. Rather stormy history of Poland also had its impact on the forest. Times of partitions are the times of Russian tsars in the forest which were followed by pillaging of forests by Russians. Luckily as the authority changed, next rulers had increased conscious of nature and started to limit the destruction of stand and stopped some of the hunting. New animals were brought from Caucasus and Siberia, which was unfavourable for ecosystem as there were to many animals.
In 1811 for few weeks there was a fire in the forest, which consumed quite big area of it. After the First World War started the forest fell into Second Reich control. As previous owners, they as well did not appreciate the nature. They built 300 km of train tracks, sawmills and hunted without limits. The regaining of independence by Poland and won war in 1920 resulted in the forest coming back to Poland. A toilsome work has begun to recreate animal populations, especially bison’s. Second World War also took its toll on it, but luckily after war it stayed in polish hands and didn’t fall in to soviet ones.
Many older users may remember beautiful stories about nature, animals and forest in polish radio performed by Simona Kossak.