All posts by Janinka

More justice for murdered foresters through international pressure

In an international petition, an alliance of nature conservation organisations called for more justice and an impartial investigation into the murder of Liviu Pop, forest ranger and forest protector in Romania. The petition was now successful: Thanks to the great solidarity, the case is now transferred to the Romanian Supreme Court in Bucharest.

A few weeks ago, two Romanian forest rangers were killed in just one month. Both had worked to protect the forests and reported illegal deforestation. The first of them was Raducu Gorcioaia, who has been working to preserve Romania´s forests for many years. He was, only a few days later, followed by Liviu Pop, who left behind a wife and three young children. Both wanted to uncover illegal deforestation and paid for it with their lives.

The extent of crime in Romania’s forests is shocking. Not only are 20 million cubic metres of wood logged illegally every year – even in protected areas – but foresters and conservationists are also brutally attacked and sometimes even killed. In the plast 5 years alone, 6 murders and over 650 attacks have been registered by the Romanian Forestry Union.
Together with Declic, Greenpeace Romania and WeMove, EuroNatur and Agent Green demanded justice for the murdered rangers. With the help of a petition they asked for international support. In just a few days, the petition was signed by over 100,000 people. The case of Liviu Pop´s murder was first dealt with in by the  prosecuter´s office in Maramures, where Pop lived and was found dead in the forest. However, a connection was suspected between the responsible prosecuter, the suspected murderers and the profiteers of the illegal timber business. As the court in  Bucharest is believed to be impartial the organisations demanded that the investigations are continued there.

Even before we were able to hand over the petition, the pressure was strong enough: On 22. November 2019, the Prosecutor General decided that the case would be transferred from the Maramures Court to the Romanian Supreme Court in Bucharest.
“We are happy that Raducu Gorcioaia and Liviu Pop as well as their families and friends will now have the chance for a fair prosecution of the case and thereforemore  justice. Nevertheless, the problem in Romania’s forests has not yet been solved. As long as corruption, mafia-like timber trading and illegal logging are common in Romania, foresters and conservationists are not safe. Romania urgently needs to consistently tackle illegal practices and corruption in the forestry sector. This is the only way to protect the forest and the people in Romania who are committed to its protection”, says Gabriel Schwaderer, Executive Director of EuroNatur.

 

Here the official announcement.

Fresh logging in Domogled national park ©Alexandru Teleaga

UNESCO and IUCN visit Romania’s paradise forests

++ UNESCO and IUCN representatives in the forest of the Carpathians ++ Forest conservationists have already referred to clear cuts in UNESCO buffer zones and national parks ++ Tactics of concealment by the state forestry company Romsilva prevented ++

A delegation of representatives of UNESCO and IUCN visited the paradise forests in the Romanian Carpathians. The reason was a so-called “reactive mission”, which serves to report on the conditions of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. At least at the meeting on 18.11.2019 in the Baile Herculane forest in Domogled – Valea Cernei national park, two activists of Agent Green were present. From the Romanian side, among others, the
head of Romsilva, Mihailescu, as well as numerous foresters and two delegates of the Ministry of Environment were present at the meetings.

The four main topics of discussion on Monday were the construction of the national road DN66A, the forest areas in the UNESCO World Heritage buffer zones as well as pasture management in these and planned hydropower plants in Romania.

EuroNatur and Agent Green were not invited for an excursion to the forests. Probably, so that Romsilva could only show intact forests to the representatives of the international institutions to underline their lies that in Romania’s forests everything is in order. To prevent this, however, EuroNatur and Agent Green had previously sent a letter to the delegation informing them with background information and information on nearby clear cuts, so that they could demand a visit to these areas as well. Thus, the representatives could also see the fatal reality in Romania’s forests. They visited, for example, the clear cuts in the Craiova valley and the Oplesata mountain peak, which border the UNESCO core zones. The delegates also visited the Arjana and Dobraia areas, where they could vitness the consequences of the recent forest fires in the Domogled national park. The days before, they had visited the area in Ciucevele Cernei, where in July 2019 EuroNatur and Agent Green protested together with Robin Wood against the construction of the national road DN66A. The construction of the road would cause massive destruction of valuable forests. The UNESCO and IUCN delegation also reiterated the need for a comprehensive environmental impact assessment of the impact on forests in these areas before construction continues.

In the discussion, Agent Green activists were able to highlight the numerous other deforestations in UNESCO World Heritage buffer zones as well as the lack of implementation of the IUCN criteria for at least 75% core zones in national parks. Already in July, Romania was criticised by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for the handling of its parts of the World Heritage sites. EuroNatur executive director Gabriel Schwaderer already expressed his concerns about the World Heritage Site at that time: “We have to fear that this extraordinary World Heritage site will soon be classified as ‘endangered’ – and this would include the German parts. The management of the Romanian areas has not improved in recent years, and now there’s a pressing need to take remedial action. The World Heritage Committee is already entering escalation level 1 by announcing to carry out a re-assessment of the World Heritage areas. We hope that this pressure will finally make the Romanian government rethink. Romania is hosting an ancient forest treasure that has long been lost almost everywhere else in Europe”.

All in all, the visit showed that both UNESCO and IUCN are keeping an eye on what is happening in Romania’s forests. Representatives of both institutions urge both a more comprehensive assessment of the impact of infrastructure projects on forests and a better management of this natural resource. They call on Romania to step up its protection efforts. A detailed report by the delegation, which will hopefully contain these points with clear statements, will follow shortly.

forest in Domogled national park © Matthias Schickhofer

Longo mai organized a day dedicated to the forests: “We need the forest and the forest needs us”

On Sunday, 03.11., Longo mai had organised a theme day on forests which took place in Basel (Switzerland). The event focused mainly on the situation of forests in the Carpathians. The occasion was the support of the campaign “Free Svydovets” which is committed to the preservation of a near-natural forest in the Ukrainian Carpathians. Unfortunately, this valuable forest is threatened by construction plans for a planned ski resort.

Since Ukraine imposed an export ban on roundwood (unprocessed wood that has only been cut into sections) in 2015, many observers suspect that the exchange of timber on the Romanian-Ukrainian border has increased massively. There is much to suspect that roundwood is being smuggled from Ukraine to Romania for resale. In addition, roundwood is probably declared and exported as firewood in the Ukraine, but then, once outside Ukraine, sold as roundwood again (roundwood is much more expensive than firewood). The overexploitation of forests in the Carpathians, both in Romania and in Ukraine, threatens the last primeval and natural forests in Europe.

The clear cuts in Ukraine, however, are not only due to illegal timber trade; the ancient forests are also being logged for big tourist projects. For example, the Svydovets mountain massif, which is characterised by old and species-rich forests, is to be almost completely cleared and to be replaced by a gigantic ski resort. There, 28000 hotel beds, supermarkets and even an own aerodrm are plannd to be built. This is outraging idea is planned by the oligarch Igor Kolomoiski, who already owns a ski resort on the neighbouring mountain.

Svydovets includes the 3000ha beech forest area “Carpathian biosphere reserve Svydovets” protected by UNESCO, which is also a part of the transnational world natural heritage “Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe”, which also includes a large part of the Romanian beech forests as well as small areas from Germany (e.g. Jasmund and Hainich National Park). Although the resort is planned to be a few metres away from the World Heritage Site (600m according to the activists at the event), it is very likely that the forest will still suffer from the ecological consequences of the construction and operation of the resort.

The mountain massif with its alpine pastures, natural lakes and old forests is home to 93 endangered (national red list) animal and plant species, including brown bear, lynx, capercaillie and Carpathian newt.

Free Svydovets has launched a petition that can be signed here: https://freesvydovets.org/en/

Additionally, the issue of the safety of foresters and activists also played an important role in the event. Forest conservationists and foresters in the Carpathians are under massive threat: In Romania, two foresters/rangers that have been combating illegal logging have been murdered in recent weeks. Unfortunately, these are not single cases: The Romanian Forest Union has registered 650 attacks and 6 murders of forest workers and rangers in the last five years. The Ukrainian activists* reported that the population of the surrounding villages in Svydovets are massively intimidated and therefore do not defend themselves against the large-scale project.

There is an urgent need for the governments of Ukraine and Romania to ensure and fully implement the laws on forest protection. Since Romania also disregards EU nature conservation law, the EU Commission also has an important role to play.

Because we need the forest and now the forest needs our help!

 

The event was organised by the Longo mai cooperative. Speeches were given by the author Ernst Zürcher (“The Trees and the Invisible”), the two representatives of the Free Svydovets campaigns Iris and Oreste del Sol as well as Dr. Lukas Straumann (Bruno-Manser Fonds) and two representatives of the Longo maï Cooperative Treynas in the French Massif Central, who are committed to sustainable forest management there.

Presentation of the Campaign “Free Svydovets” © Janinka Lutze
One presentation slide showing the location of Svydovets © Janinka Lutze
Many interested people at the event © Janinka Lutze
Information material on forests in Romania and Ukraine © Janinka Lutze