Urwaldzerstörung in Europa
Rumänien beherbergt noch große Urwälder. Aber sie werden abgeholzt. Sogar in Nationalparks. Rumänien hat ab Jänner 2019 den EU-Ratsvorsitz. Die Regierung muss handeln.
Europas einzigartiges Naturerbe
Ein Waldmeer bis zum Horizont...
Nirgendwo sonst in der gemäßigten Klimazone in Europa haben so viele Urwälder überlebt wie in Rumänien. Doch sie werden zerstört. Jeden Tag. Unsere Video-Doku's zeigen das Ausmaß der brutalen Zerstörung...
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Europas wildestes Gebirgstal...
Obwohl im Natura 2000 Gebiet Fagaras-Gebirge gelegen, steht dieser Naturschatz nicht unter Schutz. Die Erhaltung dieser einmaligen Wildnis und Naturtourismus könnte der lokalen Wirtschaft aber weit mehr nutzen als die Abholzung...
WeiterlesenEuropäisches Naturerbe im Sterben
Europa's größtes Naturschutzdrama.
Rumänien beherbergt den größten Urwaldschatz der EU. Doch der wird unter den Augen von Regierung und Behörden geplündert. In rasender Geschwindigkeit. Und die aktuelle Regierung attackiert nun auch noch die eigenen Urwaldschutzbestimmungen. Der Hut brennt!
WeiterlesenDer größte Rotbuchen-Urwald der EU
Nera-Urwald: 6000 Jahre alt, 5000 Hektar groß.
Ein Fenster in die Urzeit Europas: So hat das natürliche Mitteleuropa einmal ausgehen. Urwälder sind von unschätzbarem Wert für die Wissenschaft.
Monster-Kahlschläge im Europaschutzgebiet.
Angeblich war es wegen dem Borkenkäfer. 2013 donnerten die Holztrucks ohne Pause ins Tal. Jetzt ist der ganze Bergrücken nackt - über 100 Hektar Kahlschlag. Bahn frei für Erosion, Fluten und Muren...
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Motorsägen und Traktoren im Anmarsch.
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Aktiv werden!Weltklasse Wildnis
Rotbuchen-Urwälder gibt es nur in Europa. Vor 5000 Jahren war Europa das Reich der Buche. Eine UNESCO Weltnaturerbestätte bewahrt die letzten Reste. Der herrliche Iauna Craiova-Urwald im Domogled Nationalpark ist einer davon.
WeiterlesenWaldverwüstung im Nationalpark
Sag mir wo die Bäume sind.
Unweit des geplanten UNESCO-Weltnaturerbe-Gebiets im Iauna Craiova-Tal im Domogled - Valera Cernei Nationalpark ist vom Urwald so gut wie nichts mehr übrig: Bäume abgeholzt, Boden verwüstet. Diese Wunde wird erst in Jahrhunderten heilen.
Jetzt aktiv werden!Wie in einem Fantasyland
Europas wirklicher Märchenwald.
Von den unberührten Wäldern Europas ist fast nichts mehr übrig. Der Fichten-Urwald im rumänischen Sambata-Tal ist echter Paradieswald. Und er ist viel älter als sämtliche Märchen und Sagen...
Jahrtausendelang getestet und optimiert.
Europas Urwälder gedeihen kontinuierlich seit der letzten Eiszeit und werden von der Evolution laufend optimiert. Sie sind daher extrem stabil. Wenn man sie abholzt, dauert es viele Jahrhunderte, bis sie diesen Zustand wieder erreichen.
Jetzt aktiv werden!Endstation Sägewerk
Hackschnitzel statt Naturerbe?
Der Holzhunger internationaler Groß-Sägewerke und die Gier von Land- und Holzräubern hat die Waldzerstörung in Rumänien in den letzten 10-15 Jahren an die Spitze getrieben. Gesetze wurden missachtet, Verstöße kaum geahndet. Jetzt geht es um die letzten Urwaldflächen!
Jetzt aktiv werden!EU-Programm Natura 2000 missachtet
Europaschutzgebiete als Abholzungs-Hotspots.
Ein Holzernte-Traktor schleift einen Biotop-Baum aus dem Stramba-Urwald im Natura 2000-Gebiet Fagaras-Gebirge. Wie ist die großflächige Urwaldzerstörung mit EU-Schutzzielen vereinbar?
Jetzt aktiv werden!Rare Lebesformen
Ohne Wildnis verloren.
Der stark bedrohte und streng geschützte Eremit kann nur in Wäldern mit Altbäumen und Totholz überleben. Die letzten Urwälder sind Rettungsinseln für viele unserer natürlichen Mitbewohner. Werden die alten Wälder umgeschnitten, bedeutet das ihren Tod.
Jetzt aktiv werden!Luchs, Bär und Co.
Die Erde gehört auch ihnen.
Ohne wilde Wälder haben unsere prächtigen europäischen Mitbewohner keine Chance. Wollen wir ihnen wirklich auch noch die letzten Reste an Lebensraum stehlen?
Jetzt aktiv werden!Kohlenstoffspeicher
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Protest against destruction of UNESCO World Heritage Site by road construction and logging in Romania
The environmental organisations ROBIN WOOD, AgentGreen and EuroNatur are protesting against the destruction of Romania’s irreplaceable natural and primary forests. This past weekend, climbing activists made a spectacular show for the protection of the forests in the Domogled Valea Cernei National Park in the Romanian Southern Carpathians: They were holding a 50-meter-long banner with the words “SAVE ROMANIAN PRIMARY FORESTS!” On Saturday, the banner fluttered over a pass, on Sunday over a 200 meter wide valley. The activists thus marked the threatened component part “Ciucevele Cernei” of the UNESCO World Heritage site for the protection of ancient and primeval beech forests in Europe, which is under UNESCO protection for all humankind.
The protest is directed against the planned expansion of the National Road 66a in the middle of the Domogled – Valea Cernei National Park, which is also under the protection of the EU as a Natura 2000 site. The Romanian government is planning to upgrade the existing non-asphalted forest road to a two-lane highway. Of the 19 kilometres of the planned construction section, one kilometre runs through the core zone of the UNESCO protected area. This would jeopardise the status of the entire transnational European World Heritage Site for the protection of old beech forests. The conservationists call on the Romanian government to permanently protect these natural and primary forests, which are important for the entire EU, and to give up all plans for the expansion of National Road 66a.
Romania hosts the largest intact natural and primary forest areas in the EU outside of Scandinavia. However, the logging in these species-rich and structurally rich forests is progressing rapidly: in 2004 there were at least 218,500 hectares of untouched forests in Romania. Recent satellite image evaluations commissioned by the EuroNatur Foundation show that only half of them are still intact.
After previous plans for the expansion of the National Road 66a were stopped in 2010 through very public environmental protests, the situation has now rapidly worsened. On 25 July 2019, the tender for road construction was closed and the Romanian Minister of Transport Răzvan Cuc announced the start of construction within a month.
“The forest destruction and the expansion of the National Road 66a endanger the entire transnational UNESCO World Heritage site and destroy unique natural landscapes. Romania is thus acting against all humanity. We urge Prime Minister Viorica Dӑncilӑ to ensure that this destruction effort is stopped immediately, “says Gabriel Paun, founder and CEO of the Romanian environmental organization AgentGreen. The German nature conservation organization EuroNatur and Agent Green are fighting with the campaign “SaveParadiseForests” for the preservation of Romania’s primary forests.
“In times of mass extinction and climate crises, the destruction of Romanian forests is madness and has enormous consequences far beyond national borders,” says Jana Ballenthien, forest advisor to ROBIN WOOD. “We demand complete protection of Romania’s natural forests. The EU is also obliged to consistently enforce European nature conservation law!“
“Just recently Romania has received a rebuke from the UNESCO World Heritage Committee because it has failed to adequately protect its natural beech forests. Now a gravel road is planned to be cut into a national road and right through a World Heritage core area. This is not only an affront to UNESCO, it will also increase the pressure on Romanian forests, “explains Gabriel Schwaderer, Managing Director of the EuroNatur Foundation.
The Domogled Valea Cernei National Park is with 612 square kilometers the largest national park in Romania and accommodates large primeval and natural forest areas. The entire national park is also designated as a EU Natura 2000 area. The EU Habitats and Birds Directives prohibit deterioration for EU-wide protected habitat types and species.
The transnational UNESCO World Heritage Site “Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and other regions of Europe” preserves 92,023 hectares of endemic European beech forest in 12 states. Of which 23,981 hectares are located in Romania. UNESCO World Heritage Sites represent the highest level of protected areas in the world and are under the protection for all humanity. Romania was recently reprimanded in July 2019 at the 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee in Baku for logging of natural forests in the buffer zones of the Romanian UNESCO component parts. The destruction of the natural beech forest and the planned road construction in Romanian UNESCO buffer and core zones endanger the status of the entire transnational World Heritage site: if these violations continue, the entire world heritage area is in danger of being abandoned. This would also affect the component parts in other countries such as Germany and Austria – eg. Serrahn in the German Müritz National Park or the Kalkalpen National Park in Upper Austria.
Informal field trip to disputed logging sites in Romanian national parks…
On November 14 and 15, 2018, an informal IUCN field visit to Romania’s Domogled – Valea Cernei and Semeneic – Cheile Carasului national parks took place upon invitation by IUCN member organisation EuroNatur. The background for this excursion is the growing concern among scientists and civil society organisations about the rapidly proceeding loss of virgin and natural forest areas in Romania due to proceeding industrial logging.
Here you can read the report by EuroNatur.
(Attention: this is a long read…)
Romania hosts the largest share of virgin forest remains the temperate zone of Europe.
Romanian state forestry enterprise Romsilva, who is managing almost all Romanian national parks, have been countering critique regarding the logging operations with the argument, that this is legally backed and even required by forestry management plans. EuroNatur invited IUCN Europe Director Luc Bas to have a closer look at the very sites in Romanian national parks…
Day 1: Visit to Domogled national park
The field visit started in Domogled – Valea Cernei national park. Right in advance, before the trip the national park administration and Romsilva had been informed by a representative of the Romanian Wilderness Society that the IUCN Regional Director wants to visit Cernisoara natural forest (Radoteasa valley) and Iauna Craiova UNESCO World Heritage Site component part. In both sites, intense logging has been reported to impact natural beech forest stands.
Unfortunately, in the morning of November 14, neither a representative of the national park administration nor of Romsilva showed up at the agreed meeting point. This seems to have been a miscommunication but also the national park manager did not respond to phone calls to try to meet up either. So the excursion by IUCN and EuroNatur together with representatives of the NGOs Agent Green and Altitudine had to be started without the officials.
On the way up the valley to Cernisoara forest the excursion participants passed the entrance of the valley leading up to Iauna Craiova UNESCO site. But the barrier was down and a forester guarding the gate refused to open it.
Thus, the joint field mission by IUCN and EuroNatur could not visit logging sites in virgin and natural forests next to the UNESCO World Heritage core area…
Cernisoara production unit: lush natural forests and progressing logging
Later, also the road into Radoteasa valley in Cernisoara “production unit” was blocked by a barrier. Nobody was waiting there. So the group walked the logging road upstream. After a few kilometres they found a large, muddy logging depot polluted with diesel oil and huge piles with logs of old beech trees. A logging tractor was waiting for more timber to be teared downhill.
Radoteasa valley can be considered as an exceptional wild area, covered by natural beech forest of the same kind and structure like the forest included in the UNESCO site core zone a few kilometers away. Until 2017, no road led into the wild valley and its more than 1000 hectares of forest wilderness.
“Not enough dead wood”: exclusion of natural forests from protection in the national park.
In discussion with Member of the EU Parliament Thomas Waitz (in May 2018 in Domogled national park) Romsilva representatives argued that the natural forest in Radoteasa area has been assessed by an (unnamned) expert who allegedly “did not find virgin forest there”. They said, there “is not enough dead wood”. Therefore the forest is not “virgin” and logging is justified.
However, neither IUCN guidelines nor Romanian law defines that only “virgin forests” should be protected in a national park. The excursion in November 2018 found large areas of natural beech forest with old tree individuals and dead wood. The still undisturbed and wild area is very large, a perfect situation for enlarging the non intervention zone of a national park. National parks are there to protect large natural ecosystems – regardless whether they are considered to be “virgin forest” (according to Romanian definition) or not.
Old growth forest in the national park auctioned for logging
Only a fraction of the forest close to the tree line and a small fragment at the lower entrance are currently protected as part of the national park core zone. The rest is included in the buffer zone, which means that it will be logged sooner or later by „progressive cutting“ (=cutting all trees over a period of 10-15 years) or “conservation cutting” (= removal of trees to accelerate forest rejuvenation and increase income from wood harvest). At the end of the logging cycles, rarely any old tree will be left there. In autumn 2018, Romsilva published four forest parcels in forestry unit XI Cernisoara for logging in 2019 (2B, 25, 45B+C) on a website for auction. Two of them (45 B+C) have been put up for auction again in January 2019.
Upstream of the logging depot Radoteasa valley is turning into a scenic, wild gorge with natural beech forest. The stream is leading up to forest parcel 25, which has been mapped by WWF Romania as “virgin forest”. The beech forest at the slopes appeared to be of natural structure and composition – with dead wood and large and old tree individuals. A member of the NGO Altitudine presented a map showing plans for a new logging road through the remote gorge to get access to parcel 25.
During another field mission in May 2018 with MEP Thomas Waitz Mr Dragos Mihai (Conservation Director Romsilva) has announced that the forest in Radoteasa valley „could be protected“ – eg. by including it into the core zone of the park. However, a few months later, Romsilva published four parcels in this area for logging auction… At the same time there is no progress regarding the announced improvements of protection.
At the entrance of the Radoteasa valley (close to road 66a) a small fraction of beech forest has been included in the national park’s core zone. This natural forest does not differ much from the forest upstream. It appears likely that the decision what to include in the core zone was not based upon strict scientific criteria.
Domogled national park is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site
The core zone of the national park in the upper Cerna valley (northern section of the park) almost entirely consists of alpine meadows and pastures. Most of the forest in this part of the national park is considered to be production forest by Romsilva.
Two UNESCO World Heritage Site component parts – Iauna Craiova and Ciucevele Cernei – are located there, but lack any stringent connection by other protected areas or corridors. Romsilva pursues „progressive” cutting and “conservation” cutting there which could lead to the complete liquidation of all natural forests stands in the buffer zone, if the management plan stays as it is now.
Logging of natural beech forests is already very close to the boundaries of the UNESCO World Natural Heritage component parts Iauna Craiova and Ciucevele Cernei (see images below).
20 years ago most of the side valleys of Cerna river were covered by large tracks of natural beech forest. Today, there is logging in all those valleys and large virgin and natural forest areas have been compromised by intensive cutting.
The inclusion of Cernisoara (and neighboring Iovan) natural forest complexes into the national park’s core zone (and / or into the UNESCO core zone) would ensure protection of the remaining high nature value beech forest and safeguard proper biodiversity connectivity.
On the way back the barrier at the entrance of Iauna Craiova valley was still down and the forester was still guarding it. Unfortunately, Mr Dragos Mihai announced on the phone that a visit is not possible…
Cultural and natural heritage of Prisacina peasant land
In late afternoon, the next destination was the small and remote village Prisacina, which is located in the “buffer zone” of Domogled National Park. They villagers mainly live on subsistence: livestock and small scale farming. Some of the forests surrounding the hamlets – Prisacina, Inlet, Scacisoara and others – have been modestly used as a source for firewood (coppicing), others remained largely untouched until today due to the steepness of the slopes and gorges. In early 2018 Romsilva intended to build roads in this remote part of the national park and to start industrial logging.
Residents opposed these plans and civil society organisations collected more than 10.000 signatures. Finally, Romsilva decided to suspend the logging temporarily.
The landscape around these villages is an extraordinary example of an ancient peasant land with rich biodiversity and exceptional beauty. NGOs Altitude and Agent Green argue that the landscape should be protected as it is – including the traditional, small scale substistance agriculture by local peasants and wild forests patches out of use. Any industrial exploitation of resources should be banned permanently in the national park’s management plan. Development of modest nature tourism (such as hiking / trekking) could support the local communities of the hamlets.
Day 2: Semenic – Cheile Carasului National Park
The second day was mainly spent within the Nature Reserve Cheile Carasului, which is embedded into the national park. Its conservation status and its boundaries are under dispute between Romsilva and Romanian conservationists. On this day, Romsilva did lead the excursion into the park.
Parcel 46 in production unit 10 is a mixed stand of beech forest including also patches of old growth beech forest with dead wood and different ages incl. ancient individuals. Here, Romsilva applies „conservation cutting“ which implies an average extraction of 5 cubic meters each year. Romsilva officials explained that they extract groups of old trees including „ugly trees“ to stimulate regeneration. On the long run all old trees will be removed and no habitat for dead wood bound species will be left in this part of the national park.
A few kilometers away, in Toplita valley, Romsilva and park officials guided into an area with „progressive cutting“. This method results in a complete removal of all old trees over a period of 10 to 15 years. Usually three consecutive cuttings are pursued. At the end, the forest age will be minor and all „habitat trees” will be gone.
However, in Toplita valley some old growth beech forest remnants and aged individuals are still in place. All of them were already marked for logging. During the field visit, workers were cutting large trees just a few 100 meters away.
Semenic and Domogled National Park have been also designated as European Natura 2000 sites.
Under the provisions of the EU Habitat and Bird Directives degradation and deterioration of habitats have to be avoided and environmental checks have to be conducted before any „plan or project“ in implied, such as logging.
Mr Mihai explained that in those national parks no explicit Natura 2000 „appropriate assessments“ (environmental risk assessment under Natura 2000) were done. All environmental asseessments have been included in the management plans of the national parks. He also admitted that in the (large) areas under „progressive cutting“ regime no further regulations to protect habitats or species are applied. In these parcels all forest is being cut step by step in the logging cycle as determined by the forest management plans, which is “legally binding”.
1. It seems that the state program to protect virgin and old-growth forests from logging („National Catalogue of Virgin Forests“) is not reaching desirable results: Mapping of forest stands is left almost exclusively left with volunteers such as NGOs. There are reports by NGOs that the Technical Commission in the Ministry for Water and Forests in charge of checking expert studies about virgin forests and including them into the „Catalogue“ has not followed up timely and thus leaving indicated areas for too long out of the catalogue.
Many studies seem to have been rejected, also because of procedural bureaucratic reasons. At the moment only 21.000 hectares are included in the Virgin Forest Catalogue. Expert studies about several 10.000 hectares have been submitted, but it is not clear what will happen to these in the near future. Thus, more immediate follow up by the government is necessary to secure protection of very valuable sites.
2. Romanian National Parks are largely not following IUCN guidelines with regard to the zoning concept. If management plans are in place, core zones in almost all cases are smaller than 75%, in many cases even smaller than 50 % of the total surface of national parks. There is no road map existing how to reach the 75 %-recommendation for non-intervention areas. As in almost all national parks high nature value sites are under immediate threat of deterioration or degradation (e.g. by intense logging), the enlargement of non-intervention zones, in particular to include old growth forests, should be considered as a matter of urgency.
3. In the large buffer zones of the Romanian national parks high nature value forests obviously clearly suffer from progressive and conservation cutting. The forestry practices in the buffer zones do not seem to differ from industrial logging sites outside the parks. These forms of industrial forest management do not comply with the primary conservation objectives of national parks, which have been established to preserve (among other objectives) large scale forest ecosystems.
4. The management of the national parks is with the state forestry enterprise Romsilva. In conversations during the fact finding mission managers showed a strong orientation towards conventional forest use and management principles.
5. Progressive and conservation cutting is also taking place in old growth forest stands in close vicinity of the core areas of the UNESCO World Heritage Site „Primeval and old growth beech forests of the Carpathians and other regions of Europe“. Romsilva seems not yet to have considered specific forest protection measures within buffer zones of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
6. According to the Operational guidelines of the World Heritage Convention (§ 180) logging could degrade the integrity of a World Heritage property: „Severe deterioration of the natural beauty or scientific value of the property, as by human settlement, construction of reservoirs which flood important parts of the property, industrial and agricultural development including use of pesticides and fertilizers, major public works, mining, pollution, logging, firewood collection, etc.“ – and : „Human encroachment on boundaries or in upstream areas which threaten the integrity of the property.“
7. The core zone component parts of the UNESCO World Heritage Site „Primeval and old growth beech forests of the Carpathians and other regions of Europe“ are increasingly isolated due to progressive logging and thus impair biodiversity connectivity and the ecological integrity of the site. Much of the forest located within the „buffer“ between the World Heritage core areas appears to be planned for logging in near to middle future if the management plans of Romsilva will be further implemented.
8. In the other valleys between the component parts „Iauna Craiova“ and „Ciucevele Cernei“ numerous old growth forest stands are still intact or only initially degraded (by first phase of thinning). The enlargement of the national parks core zone including all these high nature value forest stands in the several side valleys would ensure proper connectivity.
Notes for readers: background facts about Romania’s national parks
– The national parks of Romania cover 317,000 hectares, which is the equivalent of 1.3% of the Romanian territory. Romania hosts approximately 7 Mio. hectares of forests (according to the latest National Forest Inventory).
– All forests included into National Parks representing approximately 240,000 hectares, equivalent to 1 % of Romanian territory and about 3.5 % of Romanian forests. In the core zones of Romanian national parks approx. 120,000 ha are under strict protection including large areas of alpine grass- und rockland.
– 12 out of 13 National Parks are administered and financed (and therefore determined) by the state owned forestry enterprise Romsilva. The majority of the National Parks has been established after the year 1990 and all of them have been legally „declared“ in the years 2000 (Law Number 5 of March 6, 2000), 2004 (Government Decision No 2151) and 2005 (Government Decision Number 1581).
– Zoning does not comply with IUCN guidelines: In the majority of national parks, core zones („special conservation zones“ which usually comprise: “zona de protectie stricta” and “zona de protectie integrale”) and „buffer zones“ (so called „sustainable use zones“, comprising: “zona de conservare durabila” and “zona de conservare durabila parcele limitrofa”) have been defined. Only one national park (Jiu Gorge) meets the IUCN target of 75% strict protection without interventions. All other national parks have „core zones“ with smaller perimeters, many even less than 50%.
– IUCN definition of national parks (protected areas “Category II”):“Large natural or near natural areas set aside to protect large-scale ecological processes, along with the complement of species and ecosystems characteristic of the area, which also provide a foundation for environmentally and culturally compatible spiritual, scientific, educational, recreational and visitor opportunities.” The “primary objective” is: “To protect natural biodiversity along with its underlying ecological structure and supporting environmental processes, and to promote education and recreation.” Economic activities should be limited to tourism and “subsistence resource use” by local communities, “in so far as these will not adversely affect the primary management objective”.
– IUCN rule for 75% strict protection in place since 25 years: IUCN defined already back in 1992 (World Congress, Caracas) and published in “Guidelines for Protected Areas Management” (IUCN Commission on National Parks and Protected Areas with assistance of the World Conservation Monitoring Centre, 1994): ” At least three-quartes and preferebly more of the area (= national park; annotation) have to be managed for the primary purpose; and the management of the remaining area must not be in conflict with the primary purpose.“ This guideline is also applicable for national parks which have been developed earlier.
Intensive resource extraction, such as large scale logging and removal of old growth forests, is obviously in conflict with the “primary objective” of protecting “natural biodiversity along with its underlying ecological structure and supporting environmental processes.”
– However, Romsilva repeatedly claims, that the “75% rule” by IUCN was not known when the Romanian national parks were planned. At the moment, 25 years after the IUCN “Guidelines” were published, there is still no roadmap in place in Romania to comply the IUCN guidelines.
– The Romanian national law on nature protection (O.U.G. 57/2007) states (not an official translation): „The management of national parks ensures the maintenance of the physico-geographic framework in the natural state, the protection of ecosystems, the conservation of genetic resources and biological diversity under conditions of ecological stability, the prevention and exclusion of any form of exploitation of natural resources and land use incompatible with the assigned purpose. (…) Within the perimeter of national parks only traditional activities are practiced only by the communities in the area of the national park, traditional activities that will be regulated by the management plan. National parks correspond to IUCN category II ‚National park: protected area managed especially for the protection of ecosystems and recreation’.“
– Buffer zones are logging zones: In the so called „buffer zones“ intense logging (with heavy machinery, large scale logging infrastructure, big openings of the canopy, removal of large amounts of timber and stepwise complete liquidation of old growth tree stands) is frequently present on huge surfaces, as various reports of NGOs such as Agent Green and also scientists reveal.
– The current exploitation of natural resources in Romania’s national parks is largely not „traditional activities” by local communities. Intense forest management is obviously mainly not persued by the „communities in the area of the national park“, but by commercial logging companies which are ususally based outside the national parks who also bring along their workers.
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.
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.
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 Europe” forest 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.