Tag Archives: biodiversity

A closer look: The shocking reality of Romania’s logged forest wilderness documented

EuroNatur and Agent Green present a photo documentation and a video that give an insight into the tragic fate of the wild forests in Romania’s Natura 2000 areas. At the same time, the Romanian environmental minister Costel Alexe seems to try distracting media attention from the Natura 2000 issue …

On April 22. 2020, the NGOs Client Earth, EuroNatur and Agent Green submitted a complaint on the progressive destruction of primeval and natural forests in Romania’s Natura 2000 areas. In order to visualize the catastrophic situation of these particularly valuable forests, EuroNatur is now publishing the photo documentation “Natura 2000 and Forests – the Romanian Status Quo” and the video “Out of Control” that give insights into the harsh reality in Romania’s European protected areas.

The photos were taken at local inspections in the Natura 2000 sites: Fagaras Mountains, Domogled – Valea Cernei, Nordul Gorjului de Vest, Semenic – Cheile Carasului and Retezat. They document the progressive destruction of ecologically extremely valuable primary and old growth forests.
The documentation also shows pictures of intact natural forests that illustrate the extraordinary biodiversity and beauty of these forest areas.

More than 300,000 hectares of potential primary and old growth forests are located in the designated Natura 2000 areas. This corresponds to 5% of Romania’s forests. The majority of this outstanding natural heritage is not safe from logging, despite the theoretical protection provided by the EU Nature Directives. EuroNatur, Client Earth and Agent Green have therefore urged the EU to ensure that Romania complies with EU legislation.

Romanian environmental minister Alexe Costel, however, does not seem to appreciate the topic of Natura 2000 and forest protection in Romania very much. According to a post on his Facebook page, he spoke on April 22. 2020, the day of the submission of the EU complaint, to the EU environmental commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius via video. But the EU complaint and the ongoing infringement procedure apparently were not addressed there – at least the Natura 2000 topic is not mentioned in the posting.
Instead, the minister praises himself for improvements to the SUMAL forestry monitoring system. Sure, making SUMAL fit for puropose is a positive thing (after the previous government partially has obstructed it). But as SUMAL is monitoring and tracking legality of wood harvesting is does not solve the problem of all those permissions for logging of primary and old growth forests in national parks and Natura 2000 sites.

The EU has initiated infringement proceedings against the Romanian government precisely because there is clear evidence of tremendous ecological damage to forests (in very good conservation status) in Natura 2000 protedted sites caused by planned cuttings. No serious environmental / appropriate impact assessments have been carried out prior to the felling permissions. As a consequence, Natura 2000 protected habitats and species have been significantly deteriorated from logging. It is therefore evident that EU legislation in the Romanian forestry sector is not being properly implemented on a large scale.

The video conference with the EU Environment Commissioner therefore appears to be a targeted PR stunt to divert attention from the uncomfortable Natura 2000 topic. However, it can be doubted that such tactics work. The EU Commission will probably not be impressed by media distractions …

You can download the file here (click on the image):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Video reportage about the fate of primary and old growth forests in Natura 2000 sites:

Environmental groups pursue new legal action over destruction of Romania’s natural forests

 

Environmental organisations EuroNatur, Agent Green and ClientEarth have revealed the catastrophic scale of illegal logging of old-growth and primary forests in Romania’s Natura 2000 protected areas in a new complaint submitted to the European Commission.

The organisations have today submitted a complaint against Romanian authorities stating that the government’s lack of action to address extensive logging of primary and old growth forests within protected areas is leading to irreversible loss of unique habitats and species.

Romania hosts two-thirds of Europe’s remaining primary and old-growth forests of the temperate climate zone. These precious ecosystems, protected by European law as Natura 2000 sites, are being systematically destroyed by large-scale logging operations.

ClientEarth wildlife and habitats lawyer Ewelina Tylec-Bakalarz said: “Intensive logging, approved by the Romanian authorities and carried out by state forestry, Romsilva, has caused serious deterioration of habitats and species protected under EU Nature Directives. Logging continues to be an ongoing threat to Europe’s most unique ecosystems and a striking violation of EU law.”

The legal action follows previous complaints which led to the European Commission launching infringement proceedings against Romanian authorities over their systemic and continuous failure to protect one of Europe’s last natural forests.

Gabriel Schwaderer, Executive Director of EuroNatur said: “Our current complaint provides the European Commission with new evidence proving that illegal logging is causing a profound environmental crisis affecting many protected areas in Romania. We hope that it will allow the Commission to intervene sooner, because now might be our last chance to take action before damage of these unique ecosystems becomes irreversible.”

The evidence obtained by the environmental groups reveals the devastating impact of logging protected forests. In Natura 2000 sites in Făgăraș and Domogled, the majority of analysed habitats showed severe signs of deterioration. In the Natura 2000 site in Maramures the researchers have documented over 10,000 hectares of clear-cuts.
Veronica Tulpan of Agent Green said: “There are whole mountains where the forest habitat has been completely removed and all of the wildlife along with it. We need a rapid intervention from the Commission to start applying the nature directives in Romania properly.”

Tylec-Bakalarz concluded: “The situation in Romanian forests is dire, but the case taken to protect Poland’s Bialowieza Forest gives us hope. It proved how effective European law can be in safeguarding of our continent’s natural wonders.” 

Video evidence about the fate of Romania’s Natura 2000 sites

Background information:

● The PRIMOFARO inventory (Primary and Old Growth Forest Areas of Romania), an analysis of Romania’s potential primary and old growth forests commissioned by EuroNatur, reveals that forest destruction is progressing quickly.

● Romania still has more than 525,000 hectares of potential old-growth and primary forests, which is more than any other EU member state (outside Scandinavia).

● Around 300,000 hectares of the Forests identified in the Primofaro inventory of Romanian woods are listed as Natura 2000 sites. Many protected animals such as large carnivores, black stork, owls, woodpeckers, bats and beetles depend on them for survival.

● Despite efforts by Romanian civil society groups to stop illegal logging, the situation in Romania has continued to deteriorate. The official national forest inventory shows that on top of 18 million m3 of legally harvested wood, another 8.8 million m3 of forest resources were extracted annually between 2009 and 2013 and increased to 20.6 million m3 annually between 2014 and 2018.

● The campaign “SaveParadiseForests“ aims at protecting the most valuable old-growth forests of the Carpathians, particularly Romania. It is jointly coordinated and carried out by the NGOs EuroNatur (Germany) and Agent Green (Romania).

Resources:
Briefing paper on the complaint to the European Commission

Briefing paper on Natura 2000 areas: Fagaras, Maramures and Domogled

Videos for Social Media

Memes for Social Media

Relevant videos: Primary forests, Maramures, Fagaras

About EuroNatur:
EuroNatur is a nature conservation foundation based in Radolfzell, Germany. Our efforts for a Europe with free-flowing rivers, ancient forests and a rich variety of cultural landscapes are transboundary in nature; we strengthen local conservation organizations and create international networks between them. Together with our Europe-wide partner network we create solutions that allow humans to live and work in harmony with nature. Our aim is a powerful network committed to protecting our European natural heritage.

About Agent Green:
Agent Green Association is a non-profit NGO for environmental protection and biodiversity conservation founded in 2009 in Romania. Established to protect Retezat Mountains, one of the last intact forest landscapes in the temperate climate of Europe, Agent Green evolved into carrying out investigations, scientific approach, strategic cooperation and effective campaigns targeted at bringing about positive and lasting change for nature.

About ClientEarth:
ClientEarth is a charity that uses the power of the law to protect people and the planet. We are international lawyers finding practical solutions for the world’s biggest environmental challenges. We are fighting climate change, protecting oceans and wildlife, making forest governance stronger, greening energy, making business more responsible and pushing for government transparency. We believe the law is a tool for positive change. From our offices in London, Brussels, Warsaw, Berlinand Beijing, we work on laws throughout their lifetime, from the earliest stages to implementation. And when those laws are broken, we go to court to enforce them.

 

Large complex of forest wilderness in Ucea Mare valley in Fagaras Mountains Natura 2000 site © Agent Green
Giant clearcut in Ucea Mare valley in Fagaras Mountains Natura 2000 site ©Agent Green
Logging in a natural beech forest Domogled – Valea Cernei Natura 2000 Site and National Park © Matthias Schickhofer

A snapshot of forests with great potential

The PRIMOFARO study: an assessment of Romania’s precious primary and old growth forests. A statement by EuroNatur foundation.

Some of the largest and most significant remaining tracts of the EU’s primary and old-growth forests are found in Romania. Many still exist because they are found in relatively inaccessible locations and have thus far avoided the impacts of human hands and modern development. These forests deserve strict protection on grounds of solid scientific data. Such forests are rare in the European Union, but they still do persist.

A contemporary debate is taking place in the EU that recognises the importance of non-intervention protection of intact natural ecosystems and is seeking consensus on targets for such protection. The Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD), in its post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework draft report is proposing strict non-intervention protection of 10% of the world’s land surface in the next decade. Romania has the unique potential to achieve this by actually protecting places that to this day maintain a continuum of intact natural values that have existed for many hundreds, if not thousands of years – its most intact primary and old-growth forests.

It follows that to do this, the location of these forests need to be comprehensively understood. For decades, debate over the existence, amount and location of Romania’s intact forests has raged. However, an ecologically informed scientific consensus has not yet been reached. One reason for this is that the thing that is being attempted to be measured is a moving target – Romania’s close to nature forests are being logged and degraded at a rapid rate, and the ability to reach this consensus is constrained as no national logging moratorium in contentious forest areas has ever been enacted. This must change.

Given this context, the PRIMOFARO study, published by EuroNatur in 2019, is a contemporary attempt to gain a snapshot of forests that have the greatest potential as primary and old growth forests. It identifies forests that potentially indicate a high level of naturalness in comparison to forests that have been relatively recently logged, degraded or managed. Expanding beyond the restrictive and ecologically compromised current Romanian definition of “virgin forests”, the PRIMOFARO study holistically assesses Romania’s forests from the perspective of biodiversity conservation commitments, including the CBD, the IUCN and the EU’s Nature Directives.

Limitations of the study, which are based on visual analysis of aerial photographs with a corresponding error rate, are described transparently in the report, and the study explicitly invites further ecological verification of its inventory.

The PRIMOFARO study, in recognition of national and international climate and biodiversity commitments, offers policy and decision makers a tool to assess and deliver on these commitments.

At EuroNatur, we and our supporters are proud of our ongoing commitment to the conservation of Romania’s magnificent forests. As such, we urge the Romanian government to take the following steps to ensure these forests are forever protected:

  • Ensure that government intervention, discourse and participation in the forest discussion in Romania is scientifically based, transparent and accountable
  • Immediately place a moratorium on all potential primary and old growth forests, including those forests identified in PRIMOFARO, and other scientific studies
  • Resource and facilitate a scientific verification of the conservation and environmental values of these forests in relation to national and international biodiversity and climate targets, goals and commitments
  • Increase the size of existing protected areas to incorporate all primary and old growth forests and ensure strict protection of these forests

 

Primary and old growth forests still exist in the Romanian Carpathians…
…but the loggings destroy the Paradise Forests.