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Sobibór. They removed trees along the Bug. The prosecutor’s office is handling the case

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Trees growing along the Bug River near Sobibór (Lubelskie Voivodeship) – in a section of about seven kilometers – have been removed. The ground is torn apart by heavy equipment. The lessee of the area, who carried out the works here, claims – in an interview with the local media – that he did not need any approvals. It’s just that the land lies in the Natura 2000 area and in the buffer zone of the landscape park. Law enforcement agencies are dealing with the case.

– There has been an obvious devastation of nature here. The sight before my eyes was terrifying. The ground was plowed up and the trees uprooted. Oxbow lakes have also been filled in – says Edyta Gałan from the Local Initiative Between the Trees.

At the end of January, while walking along the Bug River, she came across cuttings near Sobibór.

The cut trees were stacked in piles Local Initiative Between Trees

Activist: work on a seven-kilometre section

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– The trees lay – and some of them still lie – in over four-meter piles. Some of them had already been transported from there. The works were carried out on a long, approximately seven-kilometer section along the river. They covered a belt with a width reaching up to 300 meters in places – reports Gałan.

Read also: Trees in the city market bare of branches. The mayor writes about “classic bureaucratic arbitrariness”

Together with other members of the Initiative, she informed about the case, i.a. municipal authorities and the Regional Directorate for Environmental Protection. The area where felling was carried out lies within the Natura 2000 area of ​​the Central Bug Valley and within the area of ​​the Polesie Protected Landscape Area and the buffer zone of the Sobibór Landscape Park. Law enforcement also took up the case.

The prosecutor’s office is checking what happened on the Bug River

– We’ve received a notification. We are conducting an investigation. We are checking whether there is a basis for initiating an investigation – says Agnieszka Kępka, spokesperson for the District Prosecutor’s Office in Lublin.

The ground was torn apart by heavy equipment Local Initiative Between Trees

On the other hand, staff officer Kinga Zamojska-Prystupa from the Poviat Police Headquarters in Włodawa informs that the vetting proceedings are being conducted in the direction of violation of Article 127 of the Nature Conservation Act and Article 181 paragraph 2 of the Penal Code.

Violation of the former is punishable by arrest or a fine of up to PLN 5,000. The second, on the other hand, refers to the destruction of a larger scale in the plant and animal world in protected areas. This offense is punishable by a fine, restriction of liberty or imprisonment from three months to five years.

The lessee says that he did not need permission, but he turned to officials

The case was referred to in “Dziennik Wschodni” by the lessee of the area. He claims that the work was carried out on agricultural land that had not been used for years and was overgrown with self-seeders. The lessee – as he told local media journalists – wants to graze cows in this place. And he emphasized that he did not need any consents or notifications for felling, because in the case of restoring unused land for agricultural use, it is not required by the Nature Conservation Act.

The cutting sites stretch for about seven kilometers Local Initiative Between Trees

He admitted, however, that before felling he presented his plans to municipal officials dealing with matters related to the environment.

– We also asked the Regional Directorate for Environmental Protection whether there are animal habitats in this place. We received a response that the office does not have such information. We deliberately carried out the felling outside the breeding season of birds. We made every effort to ensure that everything was done in accordance with the law – he stressed in an interview with “Dziennik Wschodni”.

Read also: Cut down trees and “destroyed lichen habitats”. Officials and the police will look at the effects of work on the cemetery

(…) the amendment to the Nature Conservation Act of 16 December 2016 introduced additional exemptions for farmers from the obligation to obtain a permit to remove a tree/bush, if they are removed in order to restore unused land to agricultural use (pursuant to Article 83f par. 1 item 3b of the Nature Conservation Act). A farmer who can demonstrate that he is removing trees/bushes to return unused land to agricultural use does not need to apply for a removal permit.

Mayor: It’s about protected areas

The mayor of the Włodawa commune, Dariusz Semeniuk, comments in an interview with tvn24.pl that although in fact the article of Art. 83f sec. 1 point 3b of the Nature Conservation Act exempts from the need to obtain consents, this is certainly not the case here.

Activists: until recently, this area looked like the one in the picture on the right Local Initiative Between Trees

– Yes, the lessee was in the office and talked to officials, but it does not change the fact that it is a Natura 2000 area and the Polesie Protected Landscape Area. It is clear that interference with nature requires an opinion from the Regional Directorate for Environmental Protection and the Team of Lublin Landscape Parks. The latter sent us a letter in which he lists the bans that have been broken – emphasizes the mayor.

Representative of the Lublin Landscape Parks: a number of prohibitions have been broken

These are the bans contained in the ordinance of the Lublin Voivode from 2006 on the Polesie Protected Landscape Area.

Read also: They want to increase the area of ​​the Białowieża Forest where you can cut. Activists and scientists protest

– We were there. Our inspection shows that the ban on removing mid-field, roadside and waterside tree stands has been violated. In addition, the ban on carrying out earthworks permanently distorting the relief and the ban on changing water relations, liquidating natural water reservoirs, oxbow lakes and water-mud areas was broken – lists Justyna Jędruch, head of the Off-site Center in Chełm, which is part of the Lublin Landscape Parks Complex.

There were, among others, clippingsComplex of Lublin Landscape Parks

He adds that although the plots in question are marked in the records as agricultural land (pastures, meadows and wooded and bushy land on agricultural land), it does not mean that the work could be carried out in violation of the prohibitions contained in the voivode’s order.

RDOŚ: the precautionary principle is very important, and the investor has received a number of documents

Janusz Holuk, head of the Department of Land Affairs II in Chełm (this is a unit of the Regional Directorate for Environmental Protection in Lublin) says that – in accordance with Article 6 of the environmental protection law – anyone who “undertakes activities whose negative impact on the environment is not yet fully recognized, is obliged, guided by prudence, to take all possible preventive measures.

– The precautionary principle is very important. Now the law enforcement authorities will determine whether the law has been broken – emphasizes Holuk.

One of the felled treesComplex of Lublin Landscape Parks

Holuk confirms that the investor, before starting the works, asked the Regional Directorate for Environmental Protection about the occurrence of protected species on the land as at the date of submitting the application.

– We replied that – as of the date of submission of the application – we had no information on the presence of protected species of animals, plants and fungi in the area in question. It’s hard for the answer to be different. The application was submitted on October 12, i.e. in the period when, for example, there is no breeding of birds and it is no longer possible to determine the presence of most plants – explains Holuk.

He emphasizes that the answer the tenant received from RDOŚ does not mean that protected species do not occur here.

Remains of treesComplex of Lublin Landscape Parks

– The investor received a number of documents prepared for the Natura 2000 area. That is a much wider area – covering over 28,000 hectares – which also includes the plots indicated by him. The documentation mentions, among other things, the presence of, for example, corncrake or kingfisher sites in this wider area. It is the investor’s duty to exercise all due diligence so that the works are carried out in accordance with the law and do not cause damage to nature – emphasizes the official.

Main photo source: Local Initiative Between Trees

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