Tag Archives: destruction

Romanian EU Presidency 2019: Eyes on Romania – and the virgin forest destruction

EuroNatur and Agent Green call on Romania and EU to turn ignorance into action. Counter shows forest destruction in real time.

Romania is hosting the Presidency of the EU Council until 30th of June – for the first time since its EU accession. EuroNatur Foundation and Agent Green take this opportunity to draw international attention to the escalating logging crisis: Romania´s vast virgin and natural forest remains vanishing at a frightening speed. A counter will showcase the number of trees cut illegally during Romania´s EU presidency.

„Until today, no appropriate action has been taken to stop this dramatic loss of outstanding nature; neither by Romania nor by the EU. Therefore EuroNatur and Agent Green will put an unmissable public spotlight on the Romanian forest drama. A counter will showcase the logging disaster in numbers of trees cut illegally and actions will come along“, Gabriel Paun, president of Agent Green says.

Romania hosts an estimated 100.000 – 200.000 ha of virgin forests, the biggest share of this almost extinct ecosystem in the EU. Solid figures do not exist. In December 2018, secret kept data from Romania’s second Forest Inventory were leaked to media. These figures show a catastrophic scale of illegal logging as the annual wood cut in Romania is about 38 Mio m3, whereas legal cut (as laid down in forest management plans) is only 18 Mio m3 per year.

This means: the illegal logging volume in Romania is obviously larger than the legal one.

This is unprecedented in the EU and should be halted immediately. And logging is also happening in protected areas, such as Natura 2000 sites. EuroNatur and Agent Green will highlight this large scale breach of EU legislation with a logging counter following the Romanian EU presidency as well as civil society actions, reminding politicians and delegates that European natural heritage in Romania gets lost every minute.

Between January and June several council meetings, an EU summit and numerous other events will take place in Romania. Today, the presidents of the European Commission, the European Council, the European Parliament and the Commissioners’ College (all EU commissioners) will visit Bucharest for the official launch ceremony and an initial meeting with the Romanian government.

The government will most likely present a bright and polished image of the country. Hopefully the presidency will also lead to increased attention on Romania’s down sides: corruption, attempts by the current government to weaken anti-mafia prosecutors – and the logging disaster.

„We will ensure that this biggest nature crisis of the EU will no longer be ignored and our actions will show that this is an important topic also for the European society“, Gabriel Schwaderer, Executive Director of EuroNatur Foundation announces. 


*** EuroNatur and Agent Green call on all European citizens to take action – and to support the petition, sign up for the newsletter and action alerts and to join the movement. More details about activities will be published soon…***

Numerous activities will remind politicians at the forest crisis in Romania. Please sign up to our newsletter – and join!

Domogled National Park: Parts of Cernisoara Virgin Forest Auctioned for Logging

In the heart of Romania’s largest national park – Domogled-Valea Cernei – a large piece of pristine virgin forest wilderness has survived until today: the wild woodland of Cernisoara. The natural forest complex is larger than 1500 ha, a rare phenomenon in heavily managed Europe. But only a part of this natural gem is under proper protection. Logging permissions are up for auction and logging bulldozers might enter this paradise place soon…
At the bottom of Cerna valley, civilisation has left its traces: summer pastures, a dirt road, ruins of failed touristic projects and a large hydro lake (from communist times). But if you look uphill, you see a different world: large, wild forests. Some of the side vallyes of Cerna river are outstanding, pathless wilderness, covered by rich virgin forests with centuries old trees. Unfortunately only a fraction of this outstanding wilderness gem of European is protected, even though it is located in the middle of a national park and a Natura 2000 site.
 
Most of the park’s territory is owned by the Romanian state. The national park administration is financed and controlled by state forestry agency Romsilva. The result of this configuration is not the safeguarding of nature, but rather the opposite: a strong motivation for exploitation. Today, only 50% of the entire park is protected.  Half the park does not differ from logging sites outside the national park. Domogled is just one example of this management tragedy; the situation in other national parks is no different.
 
In early 2017 Romsilva issued permits for logging in several virgin and old growth forests within the national park. The national park administration did not object to the planned destruction. In April 2017 logging tractors entered the remote wilderness in Cernisoara forest complex and they began to cut a brutal forest road into the pristine western slope of upper Radoteasa valley. For the first time ever, the large wilderness was opened for destruction.
 

Romania Deliberately Destroys State Owned Primary Forests from AGENT GREEN on Vimeo.

More untouched forest to be logged soon?

Just recently, in October 2018, Romsilva auctioned four more parcels of virgin forests in Radoteasa valley to be cut down and sold. One of these parcels, No. 25 (see below), has been identified as virgin forest area (“paduri virgine”) by a WWF inventory in 2016. The wild forest also has been  submitted for inclusion into the Romanian forest protection programme: “National Catalogue of Virgin Forests”.

But now some of these paradise forests have appeared on the cutting list. Unfortunately, only parts of the Cernisoara virgin forest haven been put under the protection shield of the park’s “core zone”. A large area (500 ha) of forest which is identical with the forest included in the core zone is unprotected and threatened by logging.
Radoteasa Valley in the Domogled-Valea Cernei National Park + UNESCO World Heritage Site: according to the plans of Romsilva, this unique wilderness will be gradually cut down … The slope on the lower right in the picture was opened for logging only in the spring of 2017 and has been partially cut down. The rest of the valley now needs much better protection!
 
Logging permissions in untouched Cernisoara virgin forest (Domogled – Valea Cernei national park): Parcel 25 has been identified as “virgin forest” (PV = paduri virgine) by WWF Romania and the national park.
 
Romania hosts the largest tracks of virgin forests in EU…
An estimated 100,000 – 200,000 hectares of forest have so far not been altered significantly by humans. But they are vanishing rapidly. Even in Romania’s national parks and Natura 2000 sites logging of natural forests is progressing. Logging, both legal and illegal is a big problem. But most of the deterioration or degradation of virgin forests is happening with the official permission of Romsilva, with forest authorities and with the full endorsement of the Romanian government.
 
This logging tragedy in Romania is the biggest nature crisis in the EU today…
 
Cernisoara forest protected – or not?
In May 2018, Member of European Parliament Thomas Waitz visited the Cernisoara virgin forests upon invitation from EuroNatur and Agent Green. Romsilva’s Head of Nature Conservation, Dragos Mihai, also joined the trip. He was asked whether the wilderness of Radoteasa could be protected. He signalled – in the presence of Romanian conservationists from Agent Green and Austrian journalists – that the old forest will be included in the strictly protected core zone of the national park.
 
Are at least parts of Cernisoara forest safe now? Unfortunately, Dragos Mihai’s words were obviously not worth a lot. Most likely Romsilva never gave up their logging intentions. In the meantime, government officials have also confirmed in a letter to Romanian Senator Mihai Goţiui that forest exploitation in Cernisoara shall proceed..
 
In other words: Europe’s last large tracks of virgin forests are being systematically destroyed with the full, official endorsement of the Romanian government.

Cutting of virgin forest in a UNESCO site’s buffer zone?
Domogled national park also hosts the largest share of Romanian components parts of the UNESCO World Heritage Site which protects Europe’s last virgin and old growth beech forests. The almost 500 ha unprotected complex of Cernisoara virgin forest complex does not differ at all from the forests protected within the UNESCO site. Even close to the boundaries of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “
Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europeforest parcels have been listed for logging.
The whole national park is designated as a “buffer zone” of the World Heritate site. Romsilva argues that logging in the buffer zone is legally viable. But is logging of virgin forest really acceptable in the buffer zone of a UNESCO World Heritage site?
 
 
Europe’s eyes will be on Romania in 2019 when it  hosts the EU-presidency. EuroNatur Foundation and Agent Green call on both the Romanian government and the EU Commission to take urgent action to preserve this outstanding natural heritage.
 
 
Wild Radoteasa valley in Cernisoara section of Domogled – Valea Cernei national park
 
Cernisoara forest is a truly wild place and has to be be included into the strictly protected zone of the national park.
These ancient trees in parcel 45B are also designated to be logged.
The western slope of Radoteasa valley in May 2018.
Devastation meets pristine wilderness: destroyed  western slope of Radoteasa valley looking at the untouched eastern part…
Logging tractor in Cernisoara virgin forests in 2017. Will they return in 2019?

Investigation Video: Romania’s State Forestry Enterprise Caught Illegally Logging in National Park

Romania – Europe’s largest tracts of old growth forests in Romania are being deliberately and illegally destroyed by state forest agency Romsilva. A new video investigation reveals hard proof of large scale forest devastation in Calimani National Park in the eastern Carpathians. Unofficially, in 2017 alone, about 70.000m3 of wood were logged in the protected area, an equivalent of 200 ha of old growth forests.

“The situation in Calimani National Park is completely out of control. The level of mismanagement and nature destruction, driven by Romsilva, is unacceptable,“ Agent Green and EuroNatur Foundation conclude. They urgently call on the Romanian Ministry for Environment to immediately dismiss Romsilva from managing protected areas, to stop any industrial logging in national parks and to take decisive action to save the EU’s largest wild forest ecosystems.

Agent Green investigator and journalist Andrei Ciurcanu visited the Calimani National Park during several investigations between 2017 and 2018. He detected scandalous devastation in the middle of the protected area: large clearcuts, brutally built forest roads, funicular lines, polluted and destroyed alpine river beds and muddy valley bottoms cleared for vast wood depots – just adjacent touristic trails. The responsibility for this disaster lies with Romsilva, who controls the national park management and administers wood exploitation in the national park.

OUT OF CONTROL #ep4 Calimani National Park from AGENT GREEN on Vimeo.

Besides the massive loss of trees, the investigation video also shows how the logs are being dragged through river beds, thereby destroying these once pure freshwater ecosystems. The logging spreads over several square kilometers and whole mountain ranges are now clear cut.

National park rangers are familiar with these illegal practices. But they obviously fear losing their job if they would administer fines. A forester, who talks only on the protection of his identity, gives an example of the functioning of the malicious system: 20 years ago, after a large wind-fell, „shady things“ happened. „Romsilva people promised wood to a Turkish company. They stalled removal of bark beetle infested trees for almost 2 years. This allowed the bark beetle to spread. At the end they could log twice as much as planned.“ This gigantic logging area is still an enormous ecological wound and forest recovery is slow because of the size of the clearing.

Peter Abran was a member of the park’s Scientific Council and a specialist of Mures Environmental Agency. He knew about the destruction and claims that he and other members were dismissed from the council after opposing logging inside the park. During a phone interview with Agent Green, Abran confirms that logging in parts of the park is illegal because no environmental permit has been issued since 2010: “Romsilva illegally exploited the forest in the national park. No ministerial order allows the logging.“

The National Environmental Guard specialists confirmed Abran’s allegations. After a survey scheduled this year, the Guard officials stated that logging plans did not have an environmental permit and Romsilva has to obey the regulations regarding the conservation and protection of nature inside the national park.

“Environmental Minister Gratiela Gavrilescu must act now! Romsilva is acting like the gravedigger of our precious natural forests. These forests are our pride and important for water, air, recreation and are crucial to the survival of many endangered species. Romsilva’s logging has become a national security threat. Thus Romsilva has to be dismissed from the management of protected areas immediately. Romania will hold the EU-presidency in 2019. The forest destruction shadow must be removed beforehand to avoid shaming our nation,” says Gabriel Paun, President of Agent Green.

“The logging tragedy in Romania has been watched and ignored by many key decision makers for way too long. This is Europe’s prime nature crisis. Climate change will increasingly affect our forests with droughts and wildfires, as we experienced already last summer. Therefore we need to preserve all remaining intact natural forests! A few weeks before the critical Katowice Climate Change Conference will take place we call on the EU and the world to look at Romania and become active!“

Agent Green and EuroNatur urge the Romanian Environmental Minister to immediately stop commercial logging in national parks, dismiss Romsilva from managing national parks and other protected areas, implement modern and nature conservation oriented management systems, provide adequate funds to properly manage protected areas (including Natura 2000 sites) and to compensate private land owners in protected areas for nature conservation objectives.

Today, a new petition was launched, addressing the Romanian Prime Minister, who will hold the Presidency of the EU-Council in the first half of 2019. The petition calls for immediate action to halt the destruction of Europe’s last large virgin forests in Romania. It will be delivered to the Romanian Government and forwarded to the European Commission and the European Parliament.

Here you can access the petition page.

The episodes #1, 2, and 3 of the “Out of Control” series can be viewed here.

Investigator Andrei Ciurcanu in wounded Calimani national park.
Devastation of protected nature in Romania’s Calimani national park.