Pole who oversaw logging in pristine forest dies at 75

Jan SzyszkoThe Associated Press
In this Thursday Sept. 26, 2019 photo Poland's former environment minister, Jan Szyszko, is seen during a party campaign in Legionowo, Poland. Szyszko, whose 2015-2018 term as minister was controversial due to his decision to carry out extensive logging in the pristine Bialowieza Forest, died suddenly on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Jan Szyszko, a former Polish environment minister who oversaw extensive logging in one of Europe's last pristine forests, died suddenly on Wednesday at age 75.

Polish President Andrzej Duda announced the "very sad, unexpected news" that Szyszko died in the morning, remembering him as "a scientist and politician, but above all a good and kind man, passionate about nature."

Szyszko had been campaigning for a seat in parliament ahead of Sunday's elections on the ticket of the ruling conservative Law and Justice party. He was environment minister in three governments over the past two decades, most recently from 2015-2018.

His last tenure was controversial due to extensive logging his ministry ordered in the Bialowieza Forest, a UNESCO world heritage site and home to bison, until a European Union court deemed the logging illegal.

Szyszko stirred up controversy even this week when he said that nursery schools were a relic of the communist era and of the previous government led by the centrist Civic Platform party. He said he hoped for a time when men will be able to support families of three or four children on their salaries, making nursery schools unnecessary.

That sparked the anger of some Polish women.