Today, Białowieża Forest is a forest complex covering the area of 150 000 ha located on the both sides of the Polish-Belorussian border. Western part, situated in Poland, covers the area of 62 500 ha; eastern part, situated in Belarus, covers the area of 87 500 ha – and constitutes „Bieławieżskaja Puszcza” National Park”.
Luckily, the Białowieża Forest was protected as a royal hunting ground, and in 19th century as a hunting ground of Tsar, and due to that fact was under special protection – e.g. it was not subject to so called “colonization”, meaning tree cutting and change of the forest areas into agricultural and settlement areas.
Due to the aforementioned fact, from the beginning of the 20th century forests of a natural origin were preserved, and in the forests the greatest European animal was saved – European bison. First illegal tree cutting can be traced back to the I World War period, when, at the beginning of 1919, last bison died.
The origins of the National Park are connected with the expedition of a group of scientists led by prof. Władysław Szafer in April 1919 to Białowieża, who travelled with a purpose of checking whether any European bisons remained in the Białowieża Forest area. Although there were no bisons left, the expedition ended with a decision to undertake the efforts to protect the fragment of the primeval forest in a form of the national park. The efforts undertaken brought the expected result in the creation, on the 29th of December 1921, of the “Reserve” forestry, changed in 1924 into forest inspectorate under the same name. In 1932 the „Reserve” forest inspectorate was changed into „National Park in Białowieża” having the area of 4693,24 ha covered by strict protection. In 1947 the aforementioned unit was reinstated as Białowieża National Park covering the area of 4716 ha. In 1996 the park area was enlarged by 10 501,95 ha. It shall be also added that natural values and appropriate forms of protection fulfilled, from the very beginning (from 1921), the criteria of contemporary binding international definition of the national park. Therefore, Białowieża National Park is the oldest of 23 national parks in Poland (www.bpn.com.pl).
Białowieża National Park protects the best preserved fragment of Białowieża Forest – last natural forest at the European Lowland Area, having the primaeval character, identical with the one which covered the area of deciduous and coniferous forests years ago. The characteristic feature of the park is its biological diversity. The Park comprises, inter alia, 809 vascular plants species, over 3 thousand cryptogams and fungi species, almost 200 moss species and 283 lichen species. There have been more than 8 thousand invertebrates species, approximately 120 species of breeding birds and 52 mammal species.
Old, primaeval forest stands in Białowieża National Park are characterized by large amounts of deadwood at the various stage of disintegration, and by the presence of typical natural forest species. Among the birds to be fund in the park one can identify e.g.: Eurasian pygmy-owl, three-toed and white-backed woodpecker; the beetles – black fir sawyer, Osmoderma eremita, Pytho kolwensis; and the butterflies – Aglia Tau, moorland clouded yellow (www.bpn.com.pl).
Its beginnings can be traced back to 1921, when the “Reserve” forestry was created at the place currently occupied by the Park. In 1932, the „Reserve” forestry was transformed into „National Park in Białowieża”. In 1947 the unit was reinstated as Białowieża National Park, and under the same name functions until today.
The Park covers the central part of Białowieża Forest. The Park covers the area of 10 517,27 ha, which constitutes 1/6 of the Polish part of Białowieża Forest. 5725,75 ha is under strict protection, 4438,20 ha is under active protection, and landscape protection covers the area of 353,32 ha.
There has been a protection zone created around the Park which covers the state commercial forest having an area of 3224,26 ha.
The park comprises 3 administrative units: Orłówka Protective Unit, Hwoźna Protective Unit and the European Bison Breeding Center (covering three breeding reserves and European Bison Show Reserve) (www.bpn.com.pl).
Białowieża National Park: www.bpn.com.pl