Protest action in wilderness of Domogled National Park exposes Europe’s biggest environmental crisis
On Saturday May 26th, 25 activists from different regions in Romania raised protest against the ongoing destruction of primeval forests in the middle of Domogled – Valea Cernei National Park. They presented hand banners and unfolded two large banners measuring 100 m2 each from the edge of steep cliffs with the message “Romania: Stop Logging National Parks” (in both English and Romanian languages). The aim of the action was to raise international attention on the widely unknown fact that primeval and old growth forests are being deliberately degraded and destroyed in Romania’s national parks. This is the biggest natural destruction crisis in Europe today.Romania hosts the biggest share of the EU’s primeval and natural forests remains.
The activists confronted managers of Romania’s state forestry enterprise, Romsilva, which manages 12 Romanian national parks, with an urgent call to immediately halt logging and to comply with international standards in Domogled and all the other national parks. Members of the Romanian and the European Parliament, Senator Mihai Gotiu and MEP Thomas Waitz, were witnesses of the action. MEP Thomas Waitz conducted a fact-finding mission in Domogled National Park at the end of last week at the invitation of environmental NGOs EuroNatur and Agent Green.
At least 382.000 m3 of wood have been commercially cut from national parks in the last year alone according to SUMAL, Romania’s central database for forests and logging. Domogled National Park is Romania’s largest national park and was the most affected by logging in the past 10 years. At least 123.000 tons of wood were logged in this park alone in the past year. Less than 50% of its forests have been included in the strictly protected nature zone. Commercially motivated logging, conducted by professional logging companies, is omnipresent. Although they are located in the very heart of the national park, over the past 15 years, large areas of untouched forests have been cut. Romsilva had approved the logging of numerous old stands. In spring 2017 logging in the last untouched valleys in Cernisoara forest department within the Domogled National Park was commenced.
“The Environmental Ministry still has no answer to people’s wish and scientists calls to preserve the highly valuable forest treasures inRomania’s national parks. Although these forests cover just 1% of the country’s surface, they mean the world to thousands of different, and mostly threatened, species and they are home to Europe’s last large primeval forests and brown bears, wolves and lynx. Political talks have failed, so we have to raise our voices here at the site of destruction, in the wounded forests, to alert both the public and European institutions”, said Gabriel Paun, founder of Agent Green.The forthcoming drama of destruction of Cernisoara primeval forest highlights the systemic malfunction of Romania’s national park management.The valleys of Cernisoaradepartment werethe last large valleysthat remained untouched till last year when 1367 hectares of primeval forests were eliminated from the UNESCO World Heritage nomination list, only to be left open to logging. Two plots of old forest in Cernisoara were degraded in 2017, two more are planned to be logged this summer.
“Ancient trees in the wild valleys behind these banners are already marked for logging. All Romanian National Parks are also designated as European Natura 2000 sites. Deterioration and degradation of natural stands is meant to be prohibited according to the EU’s NatureDirectives. Numerous biodiversity rich forests in Romania’s national parks are not protected at all, as the so called ‚buffer zones‘‚ do not differ at all from ordinary intensive forestry areas outside national parks. National parks are not there to enhance the economy of Romania’s state forest enterprise but rather to comply with international conservation standards and the Romanian national park law. Romania’s old growth forests do not need ‚sanitary logging‘, but sanitation for the conservation of natural forests. The natural forest drama in Romania by far exceeds the size of logging in Polands Bialowieza forest. We call on the EU Commission to take urgent action to prevent further violations of EU legislation”, said Matthias Schickhofer, senior advisor at international Foundation EuroNatur.
Currently, none of the 13 national parks meet the IUCN recommendations and Romania has no road map to achieve this. On the contrary, the surface of non-intervention zones was reduced significantly in a number of national parks. “This trend is terrifying. Not just Romania, but the whole EU is losing extremely valuable natural treasures. If in Europe, we all fail to stop this drama, most of our last paradise forests will be gone soon. And forever”, Paun concluded.
EuroNatur and Agent Green respectfully call on the Romanian Government to:
- Immediately place a moratorium on logging of potential old growth and primeval forests in all national parks, in particular on state property.
- Introduce IUCN compatible national park regimes and management plans by 2025, especially ensuring at least 75% non-intervention areas.
- Ensure sufficient funding for national parks from the State budget as well as independent and professional national park administrations.
- Restructure scientific councils of all national parks to be formed solely of independent expert scientists with a responsibility to ensure conservation of national parks.
- Ensure local communities in the national parks are adequately identified and private land owners compensated.