Tag Archives: agent green

After the attack against journalists and conservationists in Romania: NGOs urge the government to finally act

In a gesture of solidarity with journalists and environmental activist, Tiberiu Bosutar, who were violently attacked in an investigation related to the theft of wood from a private forest, several volunteers of environmental organizations Agent Green, Declic and Greenpeace arrived in the commune of Panaci, Suceava county, the closest locality to the place where the incident took place.

Participants point out that such violent incidents against the freedom of the press and forest defenders must cease. At the same time, they urge the Ministry of Interior to treat the case with the utmost seriousness. “The truth needs to come to light as soon as possible. Future generations deserve the chance to grow up in a better society where we all feel safe, protected and respected by the authorities,” conservationists underlined.

“Today’s action is one of solidarity above all else. Solidarity with journalists investigating topics related to illegal logging and environmental activists who are at the forefront of the fight against the wood mafia. Globally, last year, 227 environmental activists were killed. If we do not take these incidents seriously, Romania may join this blacklist soon enough. To prevent this. the authorities must treat the incident in Suceava with the utmost seriousness and strongly condemn such actions now and in the future “, said Mircea Barbu, Agent Green investigator.

 

UNESCO World Heritage Center expresses „utmost concern“ about Romania’s World Natural Heritage property components

Agent Green and EuroNatur Foundation: Romania must respect international nature conservation requirements and abandon logging in all UNESCO and national park buffer zones!

At the its 44th session in August 2021, the World Heritage Committee examined the state of conservation of the transnational World Heritage property, protecting Europe’s „Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests“ and found little reason to be cheerful when it comes to logging activities in the buffer zones of Romania’s World Heritage components. In a document transmitted to the State Parties of the World Heritage property, UNESCO expressed „utmost concern that the current management of the Romanian components’ buffer zones does not meet the requirements of the Operational Guidelines and may have negative effects on the integrity of the property.“

The World Heritage Center, the world’s supreme culture and nature conservation body, urges Romania (as well as Albania) to implement all recommendations, issued earlier this year by a joint UNESCO and IUCN field mission, including a call to „strengthen the integrity of the property by minimizing the use of forestry interventions“.

Logging activities in buffer zones of Romanian components of the transnational UNESCO World Heritage property „Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe“ have been raising severe concerns by UNESCO, International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and NGOs since several years.

However, field visits by IUCN and UNESCO and urgent calls by the World Heritage Center on Romania to stop logging threats to the World Heritage property did not yet result in any positive response by the Romanian state and its competent authorities: Logging operations in high biodiversity value (beech) forests have not been stopped by the Romanian Government or any change to the current management plans of the protected areas concerned has been implemented. For instance, logging in the buffer zone of the already heavily wounded Domogled – Valea Cernei national park is being driven forward.

Already back in 2020, IUCN expressed „significant concern“ about the situation of components of the serial World Heritage Property in Romania: „Logging in buffer zones in Romania and previous logging activities in the buffer zones of, and also within, the Slovak components remain a high threat until all these areas are protected from logging, both formally and in practice.“

In detail, the World Heritage Centre requests the States Party Romania to implement the following mission recommendations: 


– Conduct on-the-ground assessments in the buffer zones and component parts where impactful forestry interventions such as clear-cuts and shelterwood cutting have been permitted, to ascertain the extent to which the effective protection of the respective components might be compromised and the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) negatively affected, 


– Enhance the connective and protective functions of the buffer zones and strengthen the integrity of the property by minimizing the use of forestry interventions; 
- Ensure that any interventions avoid interference with the natural processes of the beech forest ecosystem taking into account the natural expansion of their surface and to strengthen their resilience, 


– Support undisturbed natural processes in all components and their buffer zones through natural regeneration, pro-forestation, aging of forest stands beyond conventional rotation ages, and to not take any decision that may affect the dynamics of such processes after external natural or anthropogenic events, such as fire, within or near the property’s components. 


UNESCO also notes „with utmost concern that the current management of the Romanian components’ buffer zones does not meet the requirements of the Operational Guidelines and may have negative effects on the integrity of the property, urges the State Party of Romania to fulfil its intention to limit interventions in buffer zones and approve new dedicated World Heritage national legislation aimed at safeguarding the OUV of the property“. 


Furthermore, UNESCO states „with concern the potential widening and paving of a forest track crossing the property and its bufferzone (national road66A) as well as potential future activities related to hydropower facilities in the buffer zone in Domogled Nationalpark in Romania, and thus also urges the State Party of Romania to abandon plans to upgrade the national road 66A inside and/or nearby the property, due to the potential impact of this project on the property’s integrity and its Outstanding Universal Value“.

For Agent Green and EuroNatur Foundation this clear wording by UNESCO proves, that Romania so far does not comply with UNESCO and IUCN rules and guidelines and that logging in in natural forests in Romania’s World Heritage property buffer zones has to be stopped immediately. The Romanian Ministry for the Environment must respect and implement by law the UNESCO and IUCN principles and criteria for World Heritage properties and national parks, as defined by both UNESCO and IUCN.

The NGO’s also criticize the role of Romanian state forest enterprise Romsilva, which is in charge of the management of almost all Romanian national parks – mainly advocating wood exploitation interests: “Romsilva is obviously rather a logging entity with no nature conservation skills and will. Its urgent removal from the equation is the first step my country must take to ensure further deliberate degradation of the UNESCO ancient and primeval beech forests” says Gabriel Paun, president of Romanian environmental NGO, Agent Green.

 

Success: Cernișoara primary forest in Romania’s Domogled National Park finally strictly protected

After three years of protests and legal proceedings by Agent Green, the national park’s strictly protected natural forests were expanded. However, several very valuable forests are still without a protective shield …

Several important primary forests in the Cernisoara basin in the de facto unprotected buffer zone Domogled – Cerna Valley National Park and UNESCO world heritage site have now become strictly protected, three years after the Agent Green protests and after a series of investigations and trials at the supreme courts of Romania.

These forests of outstanding natural value, including most of the Radoteasa and Cărbunele valleys (except the plots degraded by aggressive logging until the date of the protest) are now listed with the new edition of the „National Catalog of Virgin Forests“.  This means that they are under a strict non intervention regime, equal to the neighboring UNESCO World Heritage site components parts and the core zone and the national park.

This success, unique in Romania comes both as a result of Agent Green’s protest in May 2018, and several lawsuits won by the organization in November 2019 against Romsilva and the Ministry of Environment at the Court of Appeal and the High Court of Cassation and Justice.

In the spectacular case of Agent Green against the Ministry of Environment and Romsilva, Baia de Aramă Forest District, the organization had suspended the cuts on an area of almost 20,000 hectares that overlap with Domogled National Park – Valea Cernei and Natura 2000 site North of Gorj West. The defendants appealed, which they lost and subsequently made an extraordinary appeal which they also lost by the final decision of the ICCJ.

In the meantime, Romsilva continued to extract secular trees from these areas until Agent Green repeatedly called on the Forest Guard to intervene. Shortly afterwards, the cuttings from Padeș, the neighboring state forest district on an area of 14,612.36 hectares, were also suspended by a decision of the Bucharest Court of Appeal (in the case of Agent Green against Romsilva and the Ministry of Environment).

Unfortunately there are still important but unprotected old growth forest patches in Ivanu, Olanu, Balmosu valleys and Cerna Sat area, adjacent to the areas which came under the shield of the „Catalogue“ recently. Also in Baile Herculane and Mehadia forest district the situation is still unsatisfying, especially in Mehedinti Mts, where only very small little „islands“ of old growth forest were included in the „Catalog“ so far. Same accounts with the UNESCO World Heritage Component Part Coronini-Bedina, which is is a very wild and beautiful area with old-growth beech forests grown on limestone.

In a „Mission Report“ (following a field trip in 2019) published in March 2021 UNESCO and IUCN called for strict protection of all old growth / primary forests in the national park: “The mission concludes that the current management of the component parts’ buffer zones does not meet the requirements of the Operational Guidelines (OG) in a satisfactory way and may have negative effects on the integrity of the transboundary property. The current forest management should seek to better support the natural processes and be based on strengthening and expanding ancient and primeval beech forest ecosystems over time.“

In this report, UNESCO and IUCN urged Romania to “strictly protect all ancient and primeval beech forest ecosystems that have not been included in the property, in order to foster the long-term preservation of those exceptional ecosystems; priority should be given to those located in proximity of the components visited by the mission, to enhance connectivity.“

The whole national park is also designated as a EU Natura 2000 site, where protected habitats and species must not be „significantly deteriorated“. Removal of rare pristine ecosystems like primary and old growth forests by logging undoubtedly needs to be classified as a „significant deterioration“ of the important natural heritage of the EU.

In 2021, the park’s new management plan will be done. Agent Green and its partner organisation EuroNatur Foundation call on the Romanian government to ensure that the strictly protected core zone of this unique national park area will be extended to ensure safe conservation of all intact natural ecosystems (including all high biodiversity value forest stands) and to meet international IUCN standards (of at least 75% strict protection zone).

Since the new EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030, which was endorsed by all EU member states in 2020, aims to strictly protect all “primary and old-growth forests”, Romania is anyway obliged to map and protect these forests safely and comprehensively.

The enlargement of the strictly protected zone also needs to ensure that all three UNESCO World Heritage component parts sites, which are located within the boundaries of the national park, are connected to suffiently guarantee the ecological integrity. This needs to include initially degraded old growth forests as well and put them under non intervention management, as reommended by UNESCO / IUCN.

Protests against logging plans of Romsilva in Cernisoara area in 2018.
The wild Radoteasa valley in the forest district of Cernisoara was not included in the strict protection system of the national park until recently, and logging plans threatened these forests, identical to the forests of “outstanding universal value” on the adjacent UNESCO site.