Over the last five years we have been working hard to support our Polish Partner OTOP (BirdLife in Poland) with their Via Baltica campaign. Key Natura 2000 sites in north-east Poland are under threat from a series of road projects on this international road corridor, which will link Helsinki to Warsaw via Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The corridor upgrade is taking place as a series of separate projects rather than being planned in a strategic way. But today there is good news. The Polish Council of Ministers has taken a strategic decision on a new route for the Via Baltica expressway based on the recommendations made by experts and the findings of a Strategic Environmental Assessment. This new route will avoid damaging three Natura 2000 sites: the Biebrza Marshes, and the Knyszyn and Augustow Primeval Forests.
The decision is a major step forward for the conservation of Poland’s unique nature and represents a significant move in the right direction towards the proper implementation of Polish and European environmental legislation. But our work is not over – unfortunately this decision does not automatically halt the current road construction inside Kynszyn Forest or other environmentally harmful road projects planned on the old route. The wildlife of this region is particularly varied with lynx, wolf, beaver, crane and elk having key populations here. Added to this, the aquatic warbler and greater spotted eagle are two birds at risk of global extinction which have their greatest populations within the European Union in this landscape of forests, valleys and marshes.What needs to happen next? The Polish authorities must implement their decision by ensuring that the Via Baltica is constructed on the new route and must stop the current piece-meal upgrades. With the new route for the Via Baltica corridor settled there is no need to continue with these large scale projects on the old route which will needlessly damage Natura 2000 sites.
Read more about the Via Baltica on our Saving Special Places page
Well done to Poland. This is the sort of thinking we want to see. Let's hope Boris is watching.
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