Tag Archives: deforestation

Romania: Justice suspends logging permits in natural forest in Domogled – Valea Cernei National Park

Agent Green succeeds to stop Romsilva from cutting down 20 parcels with intact natural beech forest in Domogled – Valea Cernei National Park / UNESCO World Heritage buffer zone and Mehedinti Natural Park

Domogled – Valea Cernei National Park contains very precious nature with „outstanding universal value“. So precious, that some of the park’s primary and old growth beech forests have been inscribed as UNESCO World Natural Heritage site.

Unfortunately, only a fraction of the highly valuable old growth beech forests in Cerna valley is protected from logging yet and has been included in the UNESCO site or in the strictly protected zone of the national park or designated as forest reserve (under the Romanian „Catalogue of Virgin Forests“).

Apparently, State Forestry Romsilva (they control the park management) kept more than 50% of the park’s forests outside the protection zone because of logging interests. Thus, logging proceeds and cuts are moving more and more into the natural beech forests. Centuries old trees fall, not far from the UNESCO World Heritage site, where the same type of forest is under protection, because of its „outstanding universal value“.

In 2018, Romsilva issued logging permits for 20 parcels in some of the parks most precious wild forest landscapes, such as pristine Radoteasa valley in Cernisoara production unit (2B, 25, 27C, 45B, 45C). This gorgeous valley was largely untouched until 2017. Then, a new forest road was brutally dug into its western slopes and logging started.

Five parcels in Mehedinti Nature Park (bordering Domogled Valea Cerni national park to the south) were also planned for logging. A forest road was built there to give access to old growth beech forest on a unique limestone plateau. 10.000 cubic meters (over 6000 beech trees) are planned for cutting only in the first phase of „progressive logging“.

Under Romanian law, „virgin and quasi-virgin forests“ are theoretically under protection and forest authorities must issue logging allowances only if the forests have been degraded already and do not meet (very strict) criteria for identification of „virgin and quasi-virgin“ forests.

Agent Green informed judiciary authorities about the high conservation value forest parcels and urged them to suspend the logging permits in order to allow (field) verification the ecological status of these potential „virgin and quasi-virgin“ forests. If their ecological integrity is confirmed, these forests have to be included in the „Catalogue of Virgin Forests“.

15 of the disputed forest parcels are located in Domogled – Valea Cernei National Park and five in Mehedinti Natural Park. Yesterday (November 12), the judiciary authorities followed the complaint by Agent Green and obliged the Forest Guard of Valcea to verify all parcels and to post them for studies on their webpage, as it is stated in the law (OM 2525/2016).

Catalina Radulescu, the environmental lawyer representing Agent Green in this subject, says: “This is an important success regarding nature conservation and implementation of forest protection legislation in Romania. However, this is not the final decision yet, as the concerned local forest administrations could make an appeal.”

Forest Guard of Valcea: No protection for pure beech forests because they do not have “enough biodiversity”

Furthermore, Agent Green has informed the Forest Guard of Valcea about the existence of large areas of potential „virgin and quasi-virgin“ forests in 708 forest parcels in Domogled – Valea Cernei National Park and in Mehedinti Natural Park.

In the reply to Agent Green the Forest Guard (signed by Mr. Zarnescu) said that they disqualified all 708 parcels, because they have do not show „enough biodiversity“, as they have the „composition of 100% beech trees“.

Beech dominated or pure beech forests are the natural forest types in most of the Domogled – Mehedinti region. The European beech (fagus sylvatica) is endemic in Europe and their protection is the main aim of the transnational UNESCO World Heritage site “Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe“, which also includes parts of the old beech forests in Domogled-Valea Cernei National Park.

For Agent Green the statement by the Forest Guard is a „huge abuse“ and strongly indicates a severe lack of qualification of this officer. It is certainly not possible to judge about biodiversity of a forest parcel from an office desk. Old growth and primary forests deserve secure and comprehensive protection, in particular when they are located within a national park, a UNESCO World Heritage buffer zone and a Natura 2000 site, Agent Green argues.

Natural beech forests with old trees are key habitats for numerous theratened and red listed species. World nature conservation organisation IUCN has been expressing strong concern about the decline of dead wood depending species such as saproxylic beetles. These highly specialized creatures need old growth and primary forests with large veteran trees. As these kind of forests are almost extinct in Europe, it is even more important to preserve all intact remains.

Demands by Agent Green and EuroNatur Foundation:

– All logging permits in old-growth and primary forests in national parks and UNESCO World Heritage site buffer zones to be cancelled and logging activities to be stopped immediately;

– All old-growth and primary forests in the national park and UNESCO World Heritage site buffer zones be preserved as designated non-intervention areas (eg. core zones enlarged, UNESCO sites expanded, National Catalogue of Virgin Forests properly implemented). As almost all forests within the UNESCO buffer zones are under the management and ownership of the Romanian state, this should be achievable without the need for financial compensation for private land owners;

– National Parks and UNESCO World Heritage Sites be promoted as places where nature conservation is paramount and adequately funded, world’s best practice management to prioritise the protection, promotion and restoration of natural ecosystems, not the exploitation of natural resources.

 

Domogled -Valea Cernei National Park and UNESCO World Heritage. The planned logging of the old growth and primary forests would severly damage the ecologcal integrity of the whole protected area.
Huge potential of old growth and primary forests in Domogled – Valea National Park (dark green polygons). In order to sustain the ecological integrity and connectivity of the UNESCO World Heritage site all intact natural forest remains in the buffer zone urgently need protection.

Very old and biodiversity rich beech trees in parcel 45B in Radoteasa valley. This forest lacks any protection and Romsilva intends to log it, although it is located in the middle of a national park…
Unprotected wild nature in Radoteasa valley in Domogled National Park. The Forest Guard of Valcea argues that pure beech forests do not deserve protection because the do not show “enough biodiversity” …
The UNESCO World Heritage site “Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe“ protects the most precious European beech forests – including three forest complexes in Domogled-Valea Cernei National Park. Image: UNESCO component part “Iauna Craiove”, a pure beech forest with tremendous biodiversity …

International NGOs condemn the assassination of Romanian foresters and call for action against illegal logging

A long list of leading non-governmental organizations from Romania and all across Europe sent a letter to the Romanian President Klaus Iohannis today expressing concern about the criminal developments in the Romanian forests and urging action to better protect these valuebale ecosystems. Only recently, two foresters were killed and there is evidence that illegal logging is being carried out in all parts of the country, even in old growth and primary forests and in EU protected areas.

The full letter, including all references and all 42 signatories, can be downloaded here as pdf: NGO letter condemning killing of forest defenders

This is the text of the letter:

To President Klaus Iohannis of Romania and the Government of Romania,

We, civil society colleagues in Romania, across Europe, and beyond, were shocked and dismayed to learn of the killing of Liviu Pop, a Romanian forest ranger who was out investigating illegal logging in Maramures, Romania, when he was shot dead. His death comes shortly after that of Raducu Gorcioaia, another forest ranger who was murdered in the forest district of Pascani earlier this month. Both are part of a long series of violence against forest rangers and activists.

These deaths, in any circumstances, are disturbing. Yet the fact that these individuals and many others have to put their personal safety on the line in order to defend Romania’s old-growth forests at a time when the importance of forests for climate action and biodiversity conservation is clear, and when forest protections are already included in Romanian law, is unforgivable. We condemn these killings in the strongest terms possible.

Romania’s forests are at threat, and forest protectors and policy-makers alike know this. Romania’s National Strategy and Action Plan on Biodiversity Conservation defines uncontrolled logging of natural forests as one of the major threats to ecological equilibrium in many mountain watersheds. According to JRC’s Wood Resource Balance Report to the EU, a concerning 43% of timber in Romania’s wood resource balance in 2015 came from unaccounted sources. Between 1990 and 2011, 366,000 hectares of forest was illegally logged, and in recent years there has been widespread logging even within ‘protected’ Natura 2000 sites. Furthermore, leaked data from the second National Forestry Inventory (IFN) show that between 2013 and 2018, logging exceeded the allowances in the approved forest management plans by about 20.6 million cubic metres of wood per year. These activities are fuelled by a criminal network which rewards a few at the top at the expense of those at the bottom, as well as at the expense of the country’s highly biodiverse forest ecosystems. This must end.

Not only are Romania’s forests an important element of national culture and natural heritage, but they can and should play a crucial role in Romania’s efforts to meet national and international climate commitments. There is a growing body of research that demonstrates that the protection and restoration of natural and old-growth forest carbon sinks, alongside a reduction in the use of fossil fuels, is a key element of sustainable climate action.

When reviewing Romania’s National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP), the European Commission stated that Romania has to “provide additional details on the specific measures to ensure sustainability for biomass supply and use in the energy sector.” Romania must take action to minimize the share of unaccounted sources in its wood resource balance, and should not be able to use solid biomass for energy whilst these environmental and socio-economic issues remain.

Furthermore, both the Romanian government and the European Commission must recognize that the protection of forests inside existing protected areas is a high priority which must be added to the Forestry section of Chapter 4.1. of Romania’s NECP, in order to mirror the commitments that Romania has already made to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Protected areas and old-growth forests must not be logged in order to increase the ‘renewable’ share of the country’s energy mix, especially when burning forest biomass is bad not only for ecosystems but also for the climate. We hope that Romania’s forthcoming National Forestry Accounting Plan will demonstrate how Romania will comply with EU land use and forestry regulation and protect its forests in its 2030 and 2050 plans. Forests are natural carbon sinks, water purifiers and homes for precious nature that must remain standing as a priority.

We call on Romania’s Presidency and incoming Government to publicly condemn the recent killings of Liviu Pop and Raducu Gorcioaia. A thorough and unbiased investigation must be carried out into both cases in order to identify those responsible and to bring them to justice. Steps must be taken to ensure that not only are those who work to defend forests and the environment provided with adequate legal protections, but that those protections are consistently enforced in practice. Furthermore, the Romanian Government must take concrete action to dismantle the Romanian ‘timber mafia’ network, and to strengthen and ensure compliance with legislation relating to forest protection and biomass sustainability.

Given the highly serious nature of this issue, we are coming to you directly with our appeal. We respectfully ask that you take the time to respond to this letter. We expect the Romanian Government and its representatives to move forward with concrete and effective actions to address the situation as soon as possible.

Romania must protect its forests and its forest protectors. If it cannot do that, how can it be sincere about its existing climate and biodiversity commitments?

Yours sincerely,

Gabriel Paun, Agent Green (Romania)
Mihai Stoica, Director, 2Celsius (Romania)
Fataï Aina, Executive Director, Amis de l’Afrique Francophone- Bénin (Benin)
Natasa Crnkovic, President, Friends of the Earth Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Jasminko Mulaomerović, Head of Board, Center for Karst and Speleology, Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Andrey Ralev, Member of the managing body, Balkani Wildlife Society (Bulgaria)
Michelle Connolly, Director, Conservation North, Prince George, B.C. (Canada)
Zdenek Postulka, Czech Coalition for Rivers (Czech Republic)
Martin Luiga, International Communications Coordinator, Eesti Metsa Abiks (Estonia)
Hannah Mowat, Campaigns Coordinator, Fern (EU)
Claude Braun, European Civic Forum (EU)
Sylvain Angerand, Campaign Coordinator, Association Canopée (France)
Frédéric Bedel, Le Syndicat national unifié des personnels des forêts et de l’espace naturel (France)
Gabriel Schwaderer, Executive Director EuroNatur Stiftung (Germany)
Jana Ballenthien, ROBIN WOOD (Germany)
Evelyn Schönheit & Jupp Trauth, Forum Ökologie & Papier (Germany)
Olaf Bandt, Executive Director, Friends of the Earth Germany (Germany)
Sylvia Hamberger, Gesellschaft für Ökologische Forschung (Germany)
Tilo Podstatny-Scharf, President, IYNF – International Young Naturefriends (Germany)
László Marasz, Koordination Dialogplattform Wald & Koordination AG Wälder, Forum Umwelt und Entwicklung (German Forum on Environment and Development) (Germany)
Wolfgang Kuhlmann, ARA (Germany)
Dr Sandra Altherr, Pro Wildlife (Germany)
Kenneth Nana Amoateng , Chief executive director, Abibiman Foundation (Ghana)
Vanda Altarelli, President, SONIA For a Just New World (Italy)
Kaisha Atakhanova, Director of regional program, NGO ARGO (Kazakhstan)
Jane L. Yap-eo, Asia Indigenous Peoples Network on Extractive Industries and Energy (Philippines)
Piotr Skubisz, on behalf of the Institute of Civil Affairs (Instytut Spraw Obywatelskich) (Poland)
Andrey Laletin, Friends of the Siberian Forests (Russia)
Juraj Lukáč, WOLF Forest Protection Movement (Slovakia)
Hemantha Withanage, Executive Director, Centre for Environmental Justice (Sri Lanka)
Julian Klein, spokesperson, Protect the Forest Sweden (Sweden)
Almuth Ernsting, Biofuelwatch (UK)
Steve Trent, Executive Director, Environmental Justice Foundation (UK)
Faith Doherty, Forests Campaign Leader, Environmental Investigation Agency (UK)
United Kingdom Youth Climate Coalition (UK)
Debbie Hammel, Deputy Director, Land Division, Natural Resources Defence Council (USA)
Mary S. Booth, PhD, Director, Partnership for Policy Integrity (PFPI) (USA)
Adam Collette, Program Director Dogwood Alliance (USA)
Cyril Kormos, Executive Director, Founder, Wild Heritage (USA)
Lucia Amorelli, Director and Campaign Organizer, Earthwise365 (USA)
Coraina de la Plaza, Global Forest Coalition (international)
Tim Cadman BA (Hons) MA (Cantab), PhD (Tasmania), Grad. Cert. Theol. (Charles Sturt), Research Fellow, Institute for Ethics, Governance and Law, Griffith University

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 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 8percent of Romania’s forests are still 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 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 “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 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.