Rospuda River Valley is located in North-East Poland, near Augustow town. That area, popular tourist destination, "land of a thousand lakes" is also recognized as green lungs of Europe together with adjacent forests of Belarus, Lithuania and Latvia.

Threat to this pristine place comes from Via Baltica, international motorway linking Warsaw and Helsinki. Cutting through Rospuda Valley is regarded by environmentalists as the worst possible alternative. Its most precious qualities are the vastness of the valley and totally undisturbed water relations that guarantee existence of unique plant associations, including many species from Polish Plant Red Data Book. Rare birds nest there such as white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla), lesser spotted eagle (Aquila pomarina), white-backed woodpecker (Dendrocopos leukotos), capercaille (Tetrao urogallus) or tangmalm’s owl (Aegolius funereus). Thriving on Rospuda diverse environment Musk orchid (Herminium monorchis or Miodokwiat krzyzowy in Polish) is endemic only site in Poland) and its existence is in real danger when proposed Augustow bypass highway is built. Moreover, current route of Via Baltica is going to trespass 7 other existing or planned NATURA 2000 reserves as well as world famous Biebrzanski National Park.

Minister of Environment Mr. Jan Szyszko ultimately approved the project in early February what led to final planning permit issued on 9.2.2007 by Podlaski Voyewoda Mr. Bohdan Paszkowski. It means that works may start anytime between now and March 1st – start of birds nesting season.

Polish government officials ignored will of its people as 150 thousands, many of them respected celebrities and scientists, signed the petition in opposition to this nature damaging choice. Polish Executive for Citizens’ Rights also demanded from Ministry of Environment to suspend its decision until all legal problems are resolved.

Situation is complicated by the fact that inhabitants of Augustow would like the road bypass constructed as soon as possible because of nuisance and dangers of lorry traffic in town centre where fatal accidents happened.

Rospuda is no longer regional Polish controversy. European Commission officially warned the government in Warsaw on 12.12.2006 (IP/06/1757 Brussels) of serious consequences if the project goes ahead. "Letter of formal notice" and "Reasoned Opinion" called for revision of Via Baltica route so NATURA 2000 areas are properly protected. Ms. Barbara Hellferich, spokeswoman for Environment Commissioner Mr. Stavros Dimas, said recently that enforcement procedure is likely to step up in the light of Polish Ministry light-hearted ignorance. Sanctions imposed could include heavy fines but also order to dismantle any investment built in violation of EU law.

Environmental organisations such as global Greenpeace or WWF as well as local grassroots movements were campaigning for years to save Rospuda to no avail. Maciej Muskat from Greenpeace Poland said Our organisation will do anything to protect these areas in the same manner we care for Amazon or New Guinea tropical forests. Since 12.2.2007 there is a spontaneous protest camp set up on site near planned destruction of Rospuda despite sub-zero temperatures. Street protest are organised throughout Poland; rest of Europe, for example in London and Dublin. Mainstream Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza got involved in saving Rospuda wetlands by running articles and by gathering signatures.

Fate of Musk orchid and other rare species depend on citizens' pressure on Polish government and European Commission. Think globally, act locally which means that wherever you are - it's high time to get involved.

You can find more information about Rospuda at the following English language websites:

Workshop For All Beings – PnrWI:

"Protect the Wetlands" Association:

International Mire Conservation Group:

Or in Polish (plenty of photos available):

Pracownia na Rzecz Wszystkich Istot:

Greenpeace Poland:

"Zielone Mazowsze" Association: