Last stands

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Science  08 Dec 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6368, pp. 1240-1243
DOI: 10.1126/science.358.6368.1240

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Białowieża Forest in northeast Poland is famous for its giant trees, wild bison, wolves, and woodpeckers, but it is now embroiled in a conflict that has sharply divided the country and pitted foresters against ecologists and other researchers. State Forests, a government organization, claims that Białowieża Forest is in jeopardy from an outbreak of the spruce bark beetle. Last year, the amount of logging permitted in part of the forest was tripled to fight the beetle. Other experts say the strategy won't work and damages the forest. State Forests is also waging a longer-term campaign against a change in tree composition by cutting some species and planting others. Ecologists argue that this is unnecessary. State Forests, backed by its own scientists and academic forestry researchers, has begun a major new study, itself controversial, to show that selective logging will sustain biodiversity, not harm it. But in the end, more research won't resolve the conflict over Białowieża, say some scientists, as it is a question of different values. On 12 December, Europe's highest court will have a hearing about the logging, and a ruling is expected next year.