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.