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Via Baltica - Rospuda Valley finally saved from destruction! BirdLife International welcomes today’s announcement by Polish Prime Minister

Date

25 Mar 2009

Sections

Sustainable Dev.
Climate & Environment

Brussels 24 March 2009 – BirdLife International [1] and its Partner OTOP (BirdLife in Poland) applaud today’s decision of the Polish government to save the famous Rospuda valley [2] in North-Eastern Poland from destruction by road development.

The road development in question forms part of the controversial Via Baltica expressway which would run through several valuable nature areas. This particular section of Via Baltica had been routed through the Natura 2000 [3] site “Augustow Forest” in North-Eastern Poland, which includes the unique mires of the Rospuda valley. BirdLife and other conservation groups all around Europe have been campaigning successfully to halt the road works.

The European Commission referred the case to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in March 2007 for infringing the requirements of the EU Habitats Directive and asked for an urgent order to halt imminent construction works. As a consequence the Polish government stopped the works, but the threat for the valley remained until today when the government officially changed its position.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk now announced the construction of an alternative route for an expressway that will relieve the town of Augustow of heavy transit traffic without harming Rospuda. The new bypass will now be constructed close to the nearby village of Raczki.

Konstantin Kreiser, EU Policy Manager of BirdLife International stated: “Today’s announcement is a great victory for Europe’s natural heritage and for all who care for it. Once more it has been shown that infrastructure development and Natura 2000 can go together, provided there is political will and respect for EU legislation. A lot of time and money could have been saved if such a decision had been taken earlier.”

Contact:

Malgorzata Gorska, the Polish Society for the Protection of the Birds (OTOP/BirdLife Poland), malgorzata.gorska@otop.org.pl, +48 605 072 963

Herlinde Herpoel, Media & Communication Manager, BirdLife European Division, Brussels, Herlinde.Herpoel@birdlife.org, +32 494 542 844

Notes for the editor

[1] BirdLife International is a global Partnership of conservation NGOs working in more than 100 countries and territories that, together, are the leading authority on the status of birds, their habitats and the issues and problems affecting them. BirdLife is represented in 42 European countries and in all 27 Members States. http://europe.birdlife.org
Sign up to BirdLife’s e-newsletter today to receive a monthly update on BirdLife’s activities on EU Policy at: http://europe.birdlife.org

[2] The ‘Natura 2000’ network, covering about 18% of the EU’s territory, is a network of sites which aims to reconcile human activities with nature conservation. Natura 2000 sites are not fenced-off areas, but encourage sustainable and nature friendly land-use and business. They are established under the EU Birds and Habitats Directives, which are binding law for all EU Member States (see http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature )

[3] The Rospuda valley is part of a designated Natura 2000 site (“Augustow Forest”) for its status as an area of outstanding biodiversity value. It is home to the protected Lesser-spotted Eagle Aquila pomarina and White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla, Wester Capercaillie Tetrao urogallus, and others. Wetlands located in the valley belong to the most pristine ones of that type within Europe.

Background information about the Via Baltica is available at: www.viabalticainfo.org/-en-

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