The historical background of the Polesie National Park

The beauty and value of the nature of Polesie were appreciated as early as the beginning of the 20th century, and ideas of establishing a national park here were born in the inter-war period. For the first time, the concept of establishing a national park in Polesie was presented in 1933, by Prof. Władysław Szafer. The plans concerned a part of Polesie which is today in Belarus. Another suggestion was proposed by Prof. Tadeusz Wilgat in 1954. But it is Prof. Dominik Fijałkowski who deserves the special distinction for having propounded the creation of a national park within the present park. It was at the time the first design in the country of a water and peat bog national park, with an area of ca. 3000 ha. In the beginning, it was called the Wytyczno National Park.

Since then, the conceptions of the borders of the future park have changed repeatedly. In Polesie, intensive land improvement works were being conducted at that time, related to the construction of the Wieprz-Krzna Channel. In the 1970s, in the Łęczyńsko-Włodawskie Lakeland, hard coal mining was begun (Lublin Coal Basin). It was impossible to create a national park under such conditions. Conservationists, however, made every effort to preserve at least the most valuable natural objects. Unfortunately, they were unable to save from reclamation, draining and converting into grassland the expansive Krowie Bagno complex. Whereas, on Prof. Fijałkowski's initiative, four nature reserves were established in the area: in 1966, Durne Bagno with an area of 213.2 ha, in 1974, Jezioro Moszne - 205.12, in 1978, Jezioro Długie - 694.93 ha and in 1982, Torfowisko Orłowskie - 671.73 ha. Their total area was 1,784.98 ha. In 1983, as the first in the country, Chełmskie Voivodship introduced the Ecological System of Protected Areas. Four landscape parks were then created: Poleski, Sobiborski, Strzelecki and Chełmski, and four landscape conservation areas (Poleski, Chełmski, Pawłowski and Grabowiecko-Strzelecki). The scientific documentation which served as a basis for the creation of the Polesie National Park was prepared by a team lead by Tadeusz J. Chmielewski in 1989. The scientists' efforts bore fruit on 1st May, 1990, when, with an area of over 4,813.35 ha, the Polesie National Park came into being. It was the first water and peat bog national park in Poland. 

As a water and peat bog park, it was faced with many problems which other parks did not have. The fundamental condition of preserving its natural properties was the maintenance of adequate water conditions, both in terms of quantity and quality. This problem was difficult to solve within the former borders. The park encompassed only a part of the reception basin of the Piwonia and Włodawka rivers, which made it impossible to control water condition levels. Taking this into account, employees of the Park prepared a conception of its expansion as early as 1991. The expansion project included the creation in 1991 of the peat bog preserve Bagno Bubnów with an area of 1600 ha. In March 1991, the project was accepted by the Park Scientific Council. Next, the project was submitted in the form of an application to the Minister of Environmental Protection, Natural Resources and Forestry.

In January, 1993, the Didactic and Museum Complex of the Polesie National Park in Załucze Stare was launched. An extensive educational programme was initiated, two nature tourist paths were created and a great amount of material was published promoting the Park's natural properties. On 1st February 1994, the Park was expanded to 9,647.73 ha and was accorded a protected area covering 13,624.25 ha. With the measures taken to expand the Polesie National Park, efforts were made for this area to be granted Biosphere Reserve status. The efforts were intensified at the end of the 1990s and culminated in the signing of an UNESCO Nomination Form, which was a formal application for the establishment of the Polesie Zachodnie Biosphere Reserve. The scientific co-ordinator of that work was Tadeusz J. Chmielewski. The establishment of the Polesie Zachodnie Biosphere Reserve took place on 30th April, 2002. On the same day, in Ukraine the Shatsk Biosphere Reserve was established. A bit later the Pribuzhskoye-Polesie Biosphere Reserve in Belarus was also established. The three neighbouring biosphere reserves cover an area with natural and landscape properties of world-class magnificence. The conferring of so high a rank to these areas proves their enormous significance for the European and global strategy of nature preservation and sustained development.