In 2016, the Polish environment minister authorized an increase of logging activities in the Bialowieza forest — one of three districts at he Puszcza Bialowieska Natura 2000 — in response to a spruce bark beetle outbreak. He also authorized active forest management operations, including pruning, reforestation and restoration, in other areas of the forest. In July 2017, the European Commission brought an action before CURIA accusing Poland of affecting the integrity of the natural forest site.
"In today’s judgment, the Court declares that Poland has failed to fulfill its obligations [to preserve the integrity of the site]. … The Court finds that implementation of the active forest management operations at issue results in loss of a part of the Puszcza Bialowieska Natura 2000 site," CURIA said in its press release.
The court also stressed that these forest management operations had been launched before Poland was able to assess their impact on the integrity of the forest. This resulted in the "deterioration or destruction of breeding sites and resting places of certain saproxylic beetles protected by the Habitats Directive as species of EU interest in need of strict protection," according to CURIA.
Bialowieza Forest was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979, as well as the European Union's Natura 2000 Special Area of Conservation list. Work on removing dead trees and trees affected by the beetle outbreak took place on approximately 34,000 hectares of the Bialowieska Natura 2000 site, which has a total surface area of 63,147 hectares.