WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's Environment Ministry is leaving part of Europe's last pristine forest without any human intervention as it seeks ways of saving it from woodworms, it announced Monday.
The Bialowieza forest, in Poland's northeast, is at the heart of a heated debate between foresters who advocate cutting tens of thousands of cubic meters (yards) of worm-affected trees, and environmentalists, who say that nature alone should be allowed to deal with the plague. European Union environment officials are also concerned about the condition of the unique forest are in touch with the ministry, according to Environment Minister Jan Szyszko.
"The problem is serious because the forest is losing some of its chief species," Szyszko has said.
The ministry said on its website Monday that some of the forest will be left without human intervention, but will be photographed and monitored. Szyszko said over the weekend that about a third of the forest will be left untouched, but did not specify the area.
"This experiment should help us determine how to best protect the forest: leaving it alone or taking an active way," Szyszko told a weekend conference concerning the forest.
Logging will be allowed in other parts of the forest which is on the UNESCO World Heritage list and occupies some 1,500 square kilometers (580 sq. miles) in Poland and Belarus. It is home to hundreds of wild bison and 60 other species of mammals including deer, moose, lynx and wolves.
Greenpeace has criticized the logging plan as a "black scenario."
The controversy was sparked by a recent regulation that was sought by the foresters who want to raises the volume of logging to eliminate the woodworm-affected trees.