Category Archives: Press

Investigation Video: Romania’s State Forestry Enterprise Caught Illegally Logging in National Park

Romania – Europe’s largest tracts of old growth forests in Romania are being deliberately and illegally destroyed by state forest agency Romsilva. A new video investigation reveals hard proof of large scale forest devastation in Calimani National Park in the eastern Carpathians. Unofficially, in 2017 alone, about 70.000m3 of wood were logged in the protected area, an equivalent of 200 ha of old growth forests.

“The situation in Calimani National Park is completely out of control. The level of mismanagement and nature destruction, driven by Romsilva, is unacceptable,“ Agent Green and EuroNatur Foundation conclude. They urgently call on the Romanian Ministry for Environment to immediately dismiss Romsilva from managing protected areas, to stop any industrial logging in national parks and to take decisive action to save the EU’s largest wild forest ecosystems.

Agent Green investigator and journalist Andrei Ciurcanu visited the Calimani National Park during several investigations between 2017 and 2018. He detected scandalous devastation in the middle of the protected area: large clearcuts, brutally built forest roads, funicular lines, polluted and destroyed alpine river beds and muddy valley bottoms cleared for vast wood depots – just adjacent touristic trails. The responsibility for this disaster lies with Romsilva, who controls the national park management and administers wood exploitation in the national park.

OUT OF CONTROL #ep4 Calimani National Park from AGENT GREEN on Vimeo.

Besides the massive loss of trees, the investigation video also shows how the logs are being dragged through river beds, thereby destroying these once pure freshwater ecosystems. The logging spreads over several square kilometers and whole mountain ranges are now clear cut.

National park rangers are familiar with these illegal practices. But they obviously fear losing their job if they would administer fines. A forester, who talks only on the protection of his identity, gives an example of the functioning of the malicious system: 20 years ago, after a large wind-fell, „shady things“ happened. „Romsilva people promised wood to a Turkish company. They stalled removal of bark beetle infested trees for almost 2 years. This allowed the bark beetle to spread. At the end they could log twice as much as planned.“ This gigantic logging area is still an enormous ecological wound and forest recovery is slow because of the size of the clearing.

Peter Abran was a member of the park’s Scientific Council and a specialist of Mures Environmental Agency. He knew about the destruction and claims that he and other members were dismissed from the council after opposing logging inside the park. During a phone interview with Agent Green, Abran confirms that logging in parts of the park is illegal because no environmental permit has been issued since 2010: “Romsilva illegally exploited the forest in the national park. No ministerial order allows the logging.“

The National Environmental Guard specialists confirmed Abran’s allegations. After a survey scheduled this year, the Guard officials stated that logging plans did not have an environmental permit and Romsilva has to obey the regulations regarding the conservation and protection of nature inside the national park.

“Environmental Minister Gratiela Gavrilescu must act now! Romsilva is acting like the gravedigger of our precious natural forests. These forests are our pride and important for water, air, recreation and are crucial to the survival of many endangered species. Romsilva’s logging has become a national security threat. Thus Romsilva has to be dismissed from the management of protected areas immediately. Romania will hold the EU-presidency in 2019. The forest destruction shadow must be removed beforehand to avoid shaming our nation,” says Gabriel Paun, President of Agent Green.

“The logging tragedy in Romania has been watched and ignored by many key decision makers for way too long. This is Europe’s prime nature crisis. Climate change will increasingly affect our forests with droughts and wildfires, as we experienced already last summer. Therefore we need to preserve all remaining intact natural forests! A few weeks before the critical Katowice Climate Change Conference will take place we call on the EU and the world to look at Romania and become active!“

Agent Green and EuroNatur urge the Romanian Environmental Minister to immediately stop commercial logging in national parks, dismiss Romsilva from managing national parks and other protected areas, implement modern and nature conservation oriented management systems, provide adequate funds to properly manage protected areas (including Natura 2000 sites) and to compensate private land owners in protected areas for nature conservation objectives.

Today, a new petition was launched, addressing the Romanian Prime Minister, who will hold the Presidency of the EU-Council in the first half of 2019. The petition calls for immediate action to halt the destruction of Europe’s last large virgin forests in Romania. It will be delivered to the Romanian Government and forwarded to the European Commission and the European Parliament.

Here you can access the petition page.

The episodes #1, 2, and 3 of the “Out of Control” series can be viewed here.

Investigator Andrei Ciurcanu in wounded Calimani national park.
Devastation of protected nature in Romania’s Calimani national park.

Romania: How Log Yards Hide the Destruction of Europe’s Ancient Forests

EIA report takes a closer look behind Romania’s forest industry
EuroNatur and Agent Green call for logging ban in all Romanian national parks

The new EIA report Behind the Scenes takes a detailed look at how the Austrian timber companies Holzindustrie Schweighofer, Kronospan and Egger continue to fuel the destruction of Europe’s last old growth forests. Holzindustrie Schweighofer pledged five years ago not to source timber from national parks or protected areas. The report shows how log yards hide the destruction of Europe’s last primeval and old growth forests in Romania…

EIA used Romania’s public timber tracking website, Forest Inspector, to study the sourcing operations of several Schweighofer suppliers as they cut wood in two national parks in Romania’s Carpathian Mountains. EIA visited these sites and documented large-scale, sometimes illegal, commercial logging in both the Rodna Mountains and Calimani National Parks.

According to data compiled by EIA, companies that supply Schweighofer have harvested at least 35,000 cubic meters from these two parks in an 18-month time period through June 2018. On-the-ground research tracked logs from these parks to local wood depots that supply Schweighofer. Schweighofer’s extensive sourcing from third-party log yards – approximately 45% of its Romanian log purchases – exposes the company to wood from national parks, as well as to illegal logging and other unsustainable practices.

EIA also found that other large multinational companies in Romania, like Kronospan and Egger, have similar sourcing issues. EIP points out, that the lack of real traceability to the forest origin by all these companies, in a country like Romania with an elevated risk of corruption, means that their purchases fuel the illegal and unsustainable logging that continues to erode Romania’s rich biodiversity and the economic future of its timber processing industry.

Romania’s Carpathian Mountains contain the majority of the remaining old growth forests in Europe. EIA: All foreign companies operating in Romania have a responsibility to enact real traceability for their wood purchases and to stop abetting the destruction of Europe’s last great forests.

NGOs EuroNatur Foundation and Agent Green are calling on the Romanian government to completely ban logging in all national parks and to improve implementation of its primeval forests protection programme. Only this would give the guarantee that destruction of Europe’s last large primeval forests is stopped. In all Romanian national parks large scale, industrial exploitation of wood is omnipresent. Almost half of the park’s surface is designated as “buffer zones”, which actually means: no protection. Both by the government and Romanian state forestry Romsilva, who are running 12 of 13 national parks, are continuously granting logging permissions in all national parks.
 
Also old growth forests are being logged with official approvals. According to the world nature conservation organisation IUCN the primary objectives of national parks are nature conservation, science, recreation and education. Thus the vast logging operations in Romania’s parks violate international standards. „Europe’s biggest nature crises in Romania will intensify if the Romanian government continues to ignore nature protection objectves and to primarily serve the interests of the logging industry,“ says Gabriel Schwaderer, executive director of EuroNatur Foundation.
 
Agent Green is filing harsh critique about the ongoing  delay of the full operation of the online timber tracking website “Forest Inspector”. All the planned expanded functions of the portal have been realized, but the Ministry of Waters and Forests has repeatedly delayed its full operation. The fact that the portal still runs with limited functions  allows the continuous degradation of forests, Gabriel Paun, President of Agent Green says.
 
“No promise and no commitment can be respected as long as the issue of log yards is not solved by expanding the functions of the forest inspector system by creating a real-time electronic register accessible to the public. The timber robbery has even scuffed the forests of national parks. Not even this 1% of the country’s surface that should have remained intact, is in proper shape” added Paun.
 
Protest action by Agent Green and EuroNatur in Romania’s wounded Domogled national park (May 2018)

Forest destruction in Romania: EU-Fact-Finding Mission und Anti-Mafia-Raid

National Park Director from State Forestry Romsilva: “The forest itself wants to be cut down”

In the early morning of May 30, 2018, officials of the Romanian anti-mafia prosecution office DIICOT began a large-scale investigation against illegal practices in the wood industry in Romania. The DIICOT press release announces: “Public prosecutors of the Directorate for the Investigation of Organized Crime and Terrorism have together with police officers within the Public Order Department and the Department of Economic Crime conducted 23 house searches in five districts of the country and in Bucharest.” The press release speaks of a “destructive action by an organized criminal group” specializing in offenses of misappropriation of public wood and also auctions, tax evasion, unfair competition, deforestation and other offenses. “

There is a “reasonable suspicion” that since 2011, several individuals have formed an organized criminal group whose members are abusing public auctions organized at the level of forestry departments in order to procure significant additional quantities of wood for processing in sawmills. Furthermore, there is reasonable suspicion that some of the processed wood comes from illegal wood sources. The estimated damage amounts to more than 25 million euros, according to DIICOT. The members of the organized criminal group also benefited from the support of some officials. A number of people will be brought to the DIICOT headquarters for questioning. In the operation special units of the gendarmerie brigade “Vlad Tepes” (the civil name of “Count Dracula”) are also involved.

“The forest itself wants to be cut down”…

Primeval forest demand itself to be cut. Really? from AGENT GREEN on Vimeo.

EU Fact Finding mission and protest action in Domogled National Park

The investigation action by Romanian anti-mafia prosecutors took place four days after a publicly-acknowledged Fact Finding mission by MEP Thomas Waitz and a protest by activists from Agent Green in Domogled National Park (26 May 2018) which hosts large areas of primeval and old growth beech forest that has been affected heavily by aggressive logging. The ongoing destruction of high conservation forest stands in this national park is just one  example for the wide spread malfunction of official nature conservation in Romania.

The visit of Thomas Waitz and representatives of EuroNatur and Agent Green revealed dramatic forest destruction in the heart of the national park: cutting of ancient beech forests, oversized and erosion-promoting forest roads or soil devastation by tractor paths on steep slopes.

National Park Director Ioan Gaspar gave the remarkable statement in front of the camera on Saturday, May 26: “The forest itself wants to be cut down”. Romsilva manager Dragos Mihai, who is in charge of 12 out of 13 Romanian national parks, claimed on the spot – unswervingly of obvious deforestation – that there is no logging in old-growth forests in the national park. He also denied that the Romanian national parks are corresponding to the international standards of the world nature conservation organization IUCN and insisted that deforestation in the so-called buffer zone of the park was legal.

However, according to the IUCN rules, at least 75% of a national park must be strictly protected. Furthermore, the Romanian National Park Law (O.U.G. 57/2007) defines that the national parks must comply with the IUCN category II, which gives priority to protection of ecosystems and recreation. The National Park Administration is therefore required by law to exclude “any form of exploitation of natural resources and land use” that is incompatible with conservation objectives.

“A Romsilva manager admitted in conversation at the site that half of the national park is de facto no longer a national park because of loggin,,” the environmentalist and journalist Matthias Schickhofer reports, who participated in the mission for the EuroNatur Foundation. “All the state foresters and national park employees present have hardly lost a sentence on the protection of ecosystems during the entire visit. Obviously, they are only concerned about the highest possible revenue from the use of wood. But logging in national parks is in severe conflict with existing laws. The forest destruction in Domogled National Park is only the tip of the iceberg: The large-scale action of the special authorities against criminal structures in Romanian timber industry proves that there is a systemic problem. Romania urgently needs a fundamental turnaround in the forest industry“.

Logging in old beech forests in Cernisoara-area at the heart of Domogled national park.
Intact primeval beech forest in Radoteasa valley, Cernisoara forest district in Domogled national park. According to a Romsilva manager an “expert” confirmed that this is not old growth forest…
Pathless wildnes in Radoteasa valley, Cernisoara area: Romsilva apparently wants to log this forest although it is located in the middle of the national park. However, the Director of Nature Conservation of Romsilva said, that this area could be incorporated potentially into the striclty protected core zone of the national park…
Sustainable forestry? No, former old growth forest in Domogled national park.
Oversized forest road in the old beech forest in the heart of the Domogled National Park. Here, apparently whole old trees were teared down into the valley …
MEP Thomas Waitz, organic farmer and forest owner from Austria, counts the annual rings of an ancient beech tree near the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Iauna Craiova” in the Domogled National Park. A new UNESCO World Heritage program has been set up in 2017 protecting the last European beech forests. In the list are, among others, also some stands in Romania. Nevertheless, in the Domogled National Park old growth beech forests are beeing logged that border the UNESCO area and that are largely identical to forests in the UNESCO protected area…
UNESCO beech forest reserve Iauna Craiova in Domogled National Park. The logged national park areas outside the reserve have likely once looked like this.