Tag Archives: conservation

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.

 

Romania: Massive logging plans threaten Bârnova – Repedea Natura 2000 site

Romanian Government continues to ignore EU legislation

Romanian non-governmental organizations and local action groups sound the alarm that logging plans in the Natura 2000 sites ROSPA0092 Pârdurea Bârnova and ROSCI0135 Pădurea Bârnova – Repedea endangers biodiversity, natural habitats, quality of life in the urban area and ecotourism. The dimension of logging plans in the protected mixed oak forests near the city of Iași as well as the lack of a proper management plan including adequate conservation measures for the bird protection site and missing environmental checks for both sites are apparently violations of EU nature protection legislation.

The Romanian environmental ministry and the local authorities have been aware of this legal deficiencies since spring 2020 due to a court case opened by NGO Agent Green. However, they did not take any appropriate action to fix this legal non-compliance. The lack of any reaction by the Romanian state apparently also contradicts the precautionary principle, which underlies Natura 2000 legislation.
Only around 102 hectares of old growth forests of a total of approximately 14.000 hectares forest in the area of the two Natura 2000 sites have been conserved as reserves with non-intervention management – which is less than one percent of the total forest area in the Natura 2000 site. The remaining 99% of forests are in an intensive logging regime.

In the last 10 years, 180 hectares of natural forest have been logged. And the authorities have approved the extraction of over 750,000 cubic meters of wood in the next 10 years without conducting any Natura 2000 appropriate assessment to eliminate the risk of deterioration of the conservation status of protected habitats and species.
The Natura 2000 protected areas of ROSPA0092 Pârdurea Bârnova and ROSCI0135 Pădurea Bârnova – Repedea are located less than 5 kilometers from the city of Iași and thus serve as important recreation area and are of high importance for air quality. The two protected areas overlap in most parts, ROSPA0092 measuring 12684.80 hectares, and ROSCI0135 measuring 12236.20 hectares.

The city of Iași is already currently facing an infringement procedure with the European Commission due to severe air pollution. The forests in the Bârnova – Repedea protected sites (located less than 5 kilometers away) represent the main source of clean air for the city.

In reaction to a complaint about systemic and wide spread destruction of high biodiversity value forests in Romanian Natura 2000 sites, which was filed by the NGOs EuroNatur, Client Earth and Agent Green, the European Commission has opened an infringement procedure against the Romanian state in February 2020.
The forests of Bârnova – Repedea are relevant for both infringement procedures.

However, despite these Infringement procedures, logging continues without adequate assessments and conservation plans for protected habitats and species.
ROSPA0092 stands out, according to the EU standard data form, as a key habitat for the Eurasian eagle-owl (Bubo bubo, the largest owl of Europe). It is a protected area that also meets the C1 and C6 criteria developed by Bird Life International for the designation of Important Bird Areas: There are at least 115 other bird species, some rare, vulnerable or endangered.

Sadly, despite its importance, ROSPA0092 does not have a management plan or a set of minimum conservation measures, even though 13 years have passed since the designation of this protected area.

ROSCI0135 Bârnova Forest – Repedea should have been designated, according to Article 4.4 of the Habitats Directive, as a Special Area of ​​Conservation (SAC), within a maximum of 6 years of Site of Community Importance (SCI) submission to the EU. This designation as „SAC“ did not happen until today.

ROSCI0135 lists a number of 23 priority species and two fragile habitats. Both SCI and SPA (ROSPA0092 under Bird directive) were designated in 2007, but only the SCI has a management plan, from 2016. It is not clear why an integrated management plan was not developed, because the two sites occupy approximately the same area.

The area was declared a site of community importance by the Order of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development No. 1964 of December 13, 2007 as an integral part of the European ecological network Natura 2000 in Romania for habitats and birds. It is a natural area (deciduous forests, forests in transition, pastures, meadows, arable lands, brook tributary of Bârlad valley) framed in the continental biogeographical-region of the Central Moldavian Plateau that shelters and conserves a diverse range of spontaneous flora and wildlife. The natural area has two types of natural habitats – Asperulo-Fagetum beech forests and Dacian oak and hornbeam forests – that provide food and living conditions for several species of small mammals, birds and insects and protect rare floristic elements.

Inexplicably, the ministry completely forgot that by its own order Bârnova became a special avifauna protection area 13 years ago and consequently the area still does not have a management plan and logging was approved that will leave exactly the species of birds for which the protected area has been designated without habitat.

Both, the SPA and the SCI site, are currently managed by Romsilva through their regional office of Iași.

“We are talking about a protected area of ​​which only one per cent is truly protected. It is a national shame. We ask the Ministry of Environment to increase the strictly protected area to at least 50 per cent of the surface of the protected areas and to set up a new natural park here, and to the candidates for the Iași County Council to support these steps. Said Veronica Tulpan, campaign coordinator with Agent Green.

More than 12,000 people from Iași region signed a petition for the protection of the Iasi forests recently. Agent Green as well as numerous local organizations call on Romanian Government to:

– Increase the strictly protected area in the Natura 2000 Bârnova-Repedea protected areas from one per cent to at least 50 pe cent by entering the functional category T I (non intervention). The rest of the protected areas must be included in the functional category T II (restricted forstry).

– Establishment of the protected area of ​​national interest “Bârnova – Repedea Natural Park” which will be superimposed with the protected areas of European interest Bârnova – Repedea.

– An immediate moratorium on all main holdings and the suspension of forest management plans until the approval of an addendum and the completion of the Natura 2000 appropriate assessment and management plan. In particular, progressive felling involving the felling of all mature trees in a plot must not take place in a protected area on the outskirts of a large city. Forest districts must have a database with all biodiversity trees (biotope trees).

– Stop the construction of new forest roads. The four forest roads under construction have neither an environmental permit nor an adequate environmental assessment. They are planned exclusively for the massive exploitation of the forest in areas with high biodiversity and do not make sense in a Natura 2000 site. The current network of forest roads is sufficient for interventions in case of natural disasters or to save lives (tourists).

Have a look at the awesome Bârnova – Repedea forest:

Societatea civilă își unește forțele pentru salvarea ariilor protejate Bârnova – Repedea from AGENT GREEN on Vimeo.

Amazon? No, Bârnova – Repedea forest in Romania.
Romanian citizens urge the government to protect the last primary and old growth forests.
Already logged parts of Bârnova – Repedea forest.
On September 16, a large number of citizens from Iasi region protested against the logging plans.