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Rospuda Valley Saved (for now)

by Norwegian Chef Wed Aug 1st, 2007 at 06:05:50 AM EST

In one of Europe's biggest and most landmark environmental battles similar in stature to the USA's battle with the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Rospuda Valley has received a temporary reprieve from the construction of a major highway.  The extremely far-right conservative Polish Government has succumbed to EU Pressure to stop road construction until the case is heard by the European Court of Justice, which will almost certainly rule against Poland in favour of the European Commission.

From the diaries (with awesome photo inside!) ~ whataboutbob

From EarthTimes

Work on a controversial motorway through Poland's pristine Rospuda nature reserve will not go ahead Wednesday, in line with the European Commission's request, Poland's Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski announced Tuesday. The European Commission on Monday said it had asked the European Union's top court to halt the construction of the trans-European Via Baltica highway cutting through a nature reserve in Poland.

The EU executive body, which has protested the project as an environmental disaster, said it had asked the European Court of Justice to issue an injunction.

From Wikipedia

The Rospuda Valley is one of the most valuable wetland areas (blanket, raised, and temporary bogs) with natural, intact water relations. That is, the bog maintains a steady water level, and therefore does not cover with trees and shrubs. Therefore, it differs from wetlands influenced by human, e.g. Biebrza Bogs, which have to be mowed in order not to become covered with plants.

Rospuda Valley is under protection because of its rare animals and plants. For example, there are 19 kinds of orchidaceae (all of which are under strict protection), including Musk Orchid (Herminium monorchis), and white variety of Early Marsh-orchid (Dactylorhiza majalis). The former has been recorded in Polish Red Data Book of Plants, and Rospuda Valley is its only Polish habitat. The latter exists in a few more places in Poland.

Other orchids that are to be found in Rospuda Valley include: the Western marsh orchid (Dactylorhiza majalis), Lady's Slipper orchid (Cypripedium calceolus), Early Coralroot (Corallorrhiza trifida), the Common spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii), or Pugsley's Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza traunsteineri), Marsh Helleborine (Epipactis palustris), Fen Orchid (Liparis loeselii). In Rospuda Valley there are also other rare and protected plants including: Dwarf Birch (Betula humilis), Greek valerian (Polemonium caeruleum), English sundew (Drosera anglica), Round-Leaved Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia), Turk's cap lily (Lilium martagon) etc.

The Rospuda Valley and its adjacent forests are inhabited by the following protected birds: Hazel Grouse (Bonasa bonasia), the Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus), Spotted Crake (Porzana porzana), the Corn Crake (Crex crex), the Common Crane (Grus grus), the White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla), Lesser Spotted Eagle (Aquila pomarina), Marsh harrier, the Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus), the Tengmalm's Owl (Aegolius funereus), the White Stork (Ciconia ciconia), the Black Woodpecker, the White-backed Woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos), the Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio), the Barred Warbler (Sylvia nisoria) and other. The area serves as a haunt for birds nesting nearby, e.g. in Augustów Primeval Forest.

For big mammals, like wolves or dears, the Rospuda Valley serves as a migratory corridor, through which they move west from Augustów Primeval Forest and Biebrza National Park. Moreover, the Valley is also inhabited by beavers, otters, foxes and other animals.

However, this is no time for complacency as the evil Polish Government will try every trick in the book to keep the road in the refuge just to make an O'Reilly-type point.

Again from EarthTimes

Premier Kaczynski told Polish Radio Tuesday that although construction on the portion of the motorway through the Rospuda nature reserve would not go ahead, work on other parts of the Via Baltica would proceed as planned.

Kaczynski said he was confident Poland would win the case in the European Court of Justice and that eventually construction through the Rospuda valley would go ahead.

Environmentalists have hailed the move as a success, but residents of the north-eastern Polish town of Augustow were bitterly disappointed.

You can help fight for the Rospuda Valley here: Save the Rospuda Valley Website

This effort is endorsed by WWF, BirdLife and Greenpeace plus numerous other conservation groups. Cross-posted on DKos.

Thanks for passing this on, NC...I had never heard of this until now. Another ET breaks the story first! (thanks to you, that is)

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Tue Jul 31st, 2007 at 10:51:03 AM EST
Great to know.. thanks for passing as bob said...

EU working..

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Wed Aug 1st, 2007 at 03:26:16 AM EST
thanks for posting that here. Read about it here
which is a little confused. It talks about the local major as being disappointed - heavy traffic being the reason. But he is optimistic, that there will be street in the future.
Then he seems to be blaming the EU.

Sollte es wegen des Streits um das Projekt zur Eskalation zwischen Umweltschützern und Einwohnern kommen, trage die EU-Kommission dafür die politische Verantwortung. Mehrere Einwohner von Augustow kündigten an, die Hauptstraße für den Fernverkehr blockieren zu wollen.
If the controversy over the project causes an escalation between environmentalists and local residents, it is the European Union Commission that has the political responsibility. Several inhabitants of Augustow announced to want to block the main street for long-distance traffic.
by PeWi on Wed Aug 1st, 2007 at 06:28:07 AM EST
From wikipedia:

The Via Baltica attracted great controversy in February 2007, as its planned route is to take it through several areas in Poland of great natural value. Most controversial is the Augustow bypass, which would take the route through the wetlands of the Rospuda Valley, the last area of its kind remaining in Europe, and an area protected by EU law as part of the European Natura 2000 Network.

Wikipedia: Via Baltica

So I guess the mayor wants the traffic out of Augustow, into the wetlands.

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by A swedish kind of death on Wed Aug 1st, 2007 at 05:40:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I also remember the area from a trip some 15 years ago. Gorgeous.

I remember it as both sandy and very fertile, slowly moving hills - forests noch und noecher. (as far as the eye could see)

Always wanted to go back, do some more sailing on the Masures and some more cycling through those forests.(sp)...

by PeWi on Wed Aug 1st, 2007 at 06:47:42 AM EST
I saw something on this recently, here in ET. There was some mention of another viable route...but I don't see that in this excellent diary, nor on the site of the Valley's advocates.

Here are the coordinates to put into GoogleEarth, by the way
N 53° 58' E 22° 52'

N 53° 53' E 22° 58'

I can just image that with all that has gone on vis a vis the EU and Poland recently that their MSM must be going crazy with recriminations about joining the EU. Usually I was of the thought of "adios". But this is something good out of the alliance.

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Wed Aug 1st, 2007 at 05:00:49 PM EST
I remember that region from a childhood camp with a canoing trip. I did not knew how special is that region,  but the landscape, forests, lakes and marches are beautiful.

The relatively untouched nature strip continues along the  Lithuanian-Belorussian border. I am sure the marches on the other side of Augustow (towards Koningsberg/Kaliningrad) are just as beautiful. Those marches are famous in the medieval history of Germanic Crusades to the Baltic region, and fights between their orders with Lithuanian-Polish tribes/states. The crusaders tended to raid in winter, when the marches froze.

My home tome is in Southern Lithuiania, just some 50 km from the Polish border.

On the other hand, land travel from Warsaw towards the Baltic states is terrible. Air travel is still the only comfortable option of visiting Latvia and Lithuania. Crossing Poland by car takes 12 hours at least, and the Eastern piece is most dreadful and dangerous. The direct one-lane road has busy traffic and awful quality, crosses all villages. You either have to go slow with trucks, or take risks overtaking them. I did not use that route for several years, but the traffic could have gotten only worse. (Train travel beyond Warsaw is primitive as well.) In actuality, the Baltic states have even more interest in the improved Via Baltica road than Poland itself.

The right thing to do is to build a good alternative route avoiding Rospuda, of course. But these common good things go slow, and the Easteuropeans do not perhaps expect much.

by das monde on Fri Aug 3rd, 2007 at 04:22:26 AM EST

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