Poland has started logging in the Bialowieza Forest despite fierce protests from environmental groups battling to save the world heritage site.
The Bialowieza Forest is a UNESCO World Heritage site that sprawls across the border between Poland and Belarus, occupying almost 580 square miles of woodland and providing home to rare European wood bison among others.
Minister Jan Szyszko and foresters have said that more trees need to be cut down because of an infestation of the European spruce bark beetle. Environmentalists, meanwhile, say that increased logging will cause irreparable damage to the ancient forest, which attracts thousands of tourists each year.
Scientists have said that Bialowieza is 8,000 years old, but Szyszko disputes their findings and told public radio last week that parts of the forest had been created by an "enterprising hand of man" on lands that centuries ago included fields of wheat and millet.
"An attempt to fight the bark beetle with a chainsaw and an ax will bring more damage than benefits," said Robert Cyglicki, the head of Greenpeace Polska.