Tag Archives: conservation

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 Romnian 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.

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:

Romania: New inventory reveals huge and threatened natural forest treasure

EuroNatur and Agent Green: Europe needs to do its homework and halt forest destruction in Romania

While Europe is shocked about the forest destruction in the Amazon, central Europe’s largest natural forests in Romania are vanishing due to logging. EuroNatur Foundation submitted a comprehensive inventory of the valuable forest stocks of Romania: PRIMOFARO (PRIMary and Old growth Forest Areas of Romania). 

The results are promising – and concerning: Romania still host more than 525.000 hectares of potential old growth and virgin forests, more than any other EU member state (outside Scandinavia). But the analysis also reveals that forest destruction moves ahead quickly.

At least on paper, two thirds – more than 330.000 hectares – of Romania’s natural and virgin forests are protected, because they are already part of the EU Natura 2000 network (which includes all national parks). But most of these forests lack any effective protection. Only 6 per cent of these forests have been listed with the Romanian „National Catalogue of Virgin Forests“so far. This programme grants protection only to those forests that comply with the strictest virgin forest criteria. Other natural forests are left without any protection. As a consequence, logging in Natura 2000 sites and national parks is omnipresent.

PRIMOFARO also shows that almost 50 percent of Romania’s virgin forests, which were identified in 2005 as part of a comprehensive inventory of virgin forests, are degraded or destroyed already.

„We intentionally looked beyond the narrow scope of ‚virgin forests’ and tried to identify high biological and climate value forests in Romania. Around 8 percent of Romania’s forests are still potentially in a very natural status. They are somehow the European equivalent of the Amazon forest. Thus they all deserve special protection,“ PRIMOFARO co-author Matthias Schickhofer underlines.

„Europe needs to act together to preserve the outstanding natural heritage of Romania. We expect that Romania respects international law and fully comply with Natura 2000 legislation: Natura 2000 protected natural forests on state property have to be protected by the governmental action immediately. Financial compensation, which must also be supported by the EU, is indispensable for private natural and virgin forest areas,“ Gabriel Schwaderer, Executive Director of EuroNatur Foundation says.

While the Romanian government kept conservationists busy with a bureaucratic burdens in conjunction with the ‚Virgin Forests Catalogue‘, 10.000s of hectares of natural forests in Natura 2000 sites and national parks were destroyed. EU legislation obliges us to protect all forests in good conservation status, not just a few virgin forest museums,“ Gabriel Paun, president of Agent Green explains.

EuroNatur Foundation and Agent Green call on the European Union and on Romania to take urgent action to save this „European equivalent of the Amazon natural forest“ and to ensure that Natura 2000 legislation is enforced in Romania. It was only on 10 September 2019 that EuroNatur, Agent Green and Client Earth submitted an EU complaint about systematic violations of EU forestry legislation by the Romanian state.

Background information

Link to the study: PRIMOFARO REPORT

The main results of the PRIMOFARO inventory:
– The analysis constitutes the biggest cluster of potential close-to-nature (old-growth and primary) forest in an EU country outside Scandinavia: 525,632 hectares of untouched or semi-natural forests, home to many strictly protected species.
– 332,844 hectares (63%) are located within Natura 2000 sites, 81,716 hectares of which are additionally protected as national parks. Even in these protected areas, natural forests are not safe from deforestation.
– However, only 116,589 hectares (or 55 percent) of the 2005 so called Pin Matra inventory still appear to be in an intact status.

Methodology of PRIMOFARO:
The PRIMOFARO digital map is based upon detailed visual analyses of satellite images, applying science based criteria to distinguish between natural forest stands and production forest. The analyses was calibrated by use of images of example areas and during several field visits (over the course of more than 2 years) and by data provision from partnering primary forest research projects (REMOTE project led by University of Prague and a forest mapping project led by Forsthochschule Rottenburg, financed by Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt).

The findings were validated during several field trips and by an evaluation of PRIMOFARO digital maps against historical CORONA satellite images. CORONA are espionage images created by the US Army in the 1960ties. Only 2% of the initial data sets showed signs of logging in the 1960ties (roads logging areas). These polygons were excluded from the PRIMOFARO digital map.

So far, the Romanian forest protection program („Virgin Forest Catalogue“) almost exclusively is focused at protection of „virgin forests“, which are defined by rather strict identification criteria, laid down in Ministerial Orders. These criteria have been applied in a very restrictive way and the registration process is scandalously slow.,

This leds to exclusion of numerous natural and virgin and even many virgin forests of international importance are still unprotected and acutely threatened by logging.. As a result, a large number of primary forests with international significance are not protected and are under threat of logging.

In addition, the EU Nature Directives do not restrict conservation obligations to „virgin“ forests only. The Habitats and the Birds Directives bind EU member states of ensure avoidance of deterioration and degradation of habitats in good conservation status. Romania widely fails or implements this EU legislation.
Primary forests and old growth forests

The PRIMOFARO inventory identifies potential “primary forests” (according to the Romanian definition), but also „old growth forests“ which were probably influenced by humans in a very extensive way or long time ago. Both, old growth and primary forests harbor rich biodiversity (like: hermit beetles, alpine longhorn beetles, bats, woodpeckers, owls, capercaillies, bears, lynxes, etc.) and capture large amounts of carbon.

Use of historical declassified satellite images (US Army, CORONA, 1060-ties) to validate the PRIMOFARO digital map.
Fagaras Mountains region – the biggest cluster of (potential) old growth and primary forests in Romania.
Many important primary forests in Romania still lack any protection. Like the wild valley of Boia Mica – one of Europe’s most outstanding wild wonders.