This year’s Goldman Environmental Prize (for Europe) has been awarded to Malgorzata Gorska (pictured with the award). This recognises her enormous role in securing the protection of the Rospuda valley and is richly deserved.

The threat of the Via Baltica (an international road corridor) to several sites in North East Poland put at risk some of Europe’s most important wildlife sites including the Rospuda Valley.   The valley is part of the Augustow Primeval forest where you can find pristine fens and mires home to two plants special protected under European law – the fen orchid and kidney saxifrage.  It’s the only place in Poland where musk orchids grow.  Rare and protected birds that breed in the valley or nearby in the forest include common cranes, hazel grouse and lesser-spotted eagles.  You can read more about it here.

Malgorzata (known to her friends and colleagues as Gosia) works for OTOP (the Polish Society for the Protection of Birds and our BirdLife partner in Poland) and the RSPB has been proud to support this campaign over the last decade.  We are delighted by this award and offer Malgorzata our warmest congratulations.

The Goldman Environment Prize is a highly prestigious award and Malgorzata is making the most of the opportunity to highlight the lessons she has learned through the Via Baltica campaign, here she is writing in the Guardian.  Effective protection of the best wildlife sites in Europe (and the Rospuda valley is a Natura 2000 site) doesn’t mean that all development is prevented – the key is ensuring that the natural environment is placed at the heart of plans at the earliest stage.  The result of this successful campaign is that the road has been re-routed, not abandoned.

Malgorzata’s story is one that needs to be told – every threatened site needs an activist or two tirelessly working to ensure that nature has a really effective voice.  Hopefully this award will be an inspiration to others to make a real difference.