Tag Archives: forest

A snapshot of forests with great potential

The PRIMOFARO study: an assessment of Romania’s precious primary and old growth forests. A statement by EuroNatur foundation.

Some of the largest and most significant remaining tracts of the EU’s primary and old-growth forests are found in Romania. Many still exist because they are found in relatively inaccessible locations and have thus far avoided the impacts of human hands and modern development. These forests deserve strict protection on grounds of solid scientific data. Such forests are rare in the European Union, but they still do persist.

A contemporary debate is taking place in the EU that recognises the importance of non-intervention protection of intact natural ecosystems and is seeking consensus on targets for such protection. The Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD), in its post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework draft report is proposing strict non-intervention protection of 10% of the world’s land surface in the next decade. Romania has the unique potential to achieve this by actually protecting places that to this day maintain a continuum of intact natural values that have existed for many hundreds, if not thousands of years – its most intact primary and old-growth forests.

It follows that to do this, the location of these forests need to be comprehensively understood. For decades, debate over the existence, amount and location of Romania’s intact forests has raged. However, an ecologically informed scientific consensus has not yet been reached. One reason for this is that the thing that is being attempted to be measured is a moving target – Romania’s close to nature forests are being logged and degraded at a rapid rate, and the ability to reach this consensus is constrained as no national logging moratorium in contentious forest areas has ever been enacted. This must change.

Given this context, the PRIMOFARO study, published by EuroNatur in 2019, is a contemporary attempt to gain a snapshot of forests that have the greatest potential as primary and old growth forests. It identifies forests that potentially indicate a high level of naturalness in comparison to forests that have been relatively recently logged, degraded or managed. Expanding beyond the restrictive and ecologically compromised current Romanian definition of “virgin forests”, the PRIMOFARO study holistically assesses Romania’s forests from the perspective of biodiversity conservation commitments, including the CBD, the IUCN and the EU’s Nature Directives.

Limitations of the study, which are based on visual analysis of aerial photographs with a corresponding error rate, are described transparently in the report, and the study explicitly invites further ecological verification of its inventory.

The PRIMOFARO study, in recognition of national and international climate and biodiversity commitments, offers policy and decision makers a tool to assess and deliver on these commitments.

At EuroNatur, we and our supporters are proud of our ongoing commitment to the conservation of Romania’s magnificent forests. As such, we urge the Romanian government to take the following steps to ensure these forests are forever protected:

  • Ensure that government intervention, discourse and participation in the forest discussion in Romania is scientifically based, transparent and accountable
  • Immediately place a moratorium on all potential primary and old growth forests, including those forests identified in PRIMOFARO, and other scientific studies
  • Resource and facilitate a scientific verification of the conservation and environmental values of these forests in relation to national and international biodiversity and climate targets, goals and commitments
  • Increase the size of existing protected areas to incorporate all primary and old growth forests and ensure strict protection of these forests

 

Primary and old growth forests still exist in the Romanian Carpathians…
…but the loggings destroy the Paradise Forests.

New report: Failing our last great forests – Romania

New report reveals neglect for virgin forest protection in Romania

++ New report shows: virgin forests don’t get included in the National Catalogue ++ Authorities block or lose studies and willingly prevent the protection of Romanian forests ++

Bucharest/Radolfzell. The failure of Romanian Government to protect the country’s remaining virgin forests following 21 years of resistance and hesitation is starkly revealed in a report, Failing our Last Great Forests, released today by Agent Green and EuroNatur.

The report analyses data related to Romania’s “National Catalogue of Virgin and Quasi-virgin Forests” and uncovers a history of clear dereliction of duty and mismanagement that has directly lead to the logging of Romania’s irreplaceable virgin forests.

The first attempt to preserve these forests dates back to 1999 when the National Strategy for Sustainable Development aimed to preserve at least 400,000 hectares of virgin forests. To date, only 30,062 hectares, or less than 8%, have been protected in the National Catalogue. Agent Green and EuroNatur estimate that at least 110,000 hectares of such forests have been lost in this time.

“This failure of nature protection is not an accident. It highlights a complete lack of political will at the cost of the disappearance, before our eyes, of Europe’s last great forests. Of the few forests protected, many are the result of formal complaints to Forest Guards and public scandals we made in the mountains of Semenic, Tarcu or Godeanu, forests like Cosava Mica, Higeg, Hidigel, Radoteasa and others”, says Gabriel Paun of Agent Green.

The report unveils details of 24,260.56 hectares of virgin forests for which NGOs and scientific organisations, invited by the Government, have authored and submitted for inclusion in the National Catalogue. Incredibly, these studies, representing 80% of all studies submitted, have been either rejected, blocked, returned, and, in the most perverse of situations, lost by the authorities at various stages of the listing process.

It must be noted that scientists have undertaken painstaking research over long time periods of time, often working in difficult remote locations at substantial cost, to submit their work for approval. That their studies have even been lost by Romanian officials is contemptuous of their profession.

Correspondence with Romanian officials has revealed a stark contrast in numbers of reports received and acknowledged between different government entities. The Ministry for Environment claims they have only received studies for 42 forest areas relating to 9,382.70 hectares. Romania’s Forest Guard acknowledges acceptance of studies for 105 areas covering 24,260.54 hectares. No explanation is given for the inconsistent data.

“We are dealing with a Bermuda Triangle syndrome in Romania. The virgin forests are disappearing. For example, ancient forests of Coltii Balei in Buzau county were originally accepted to be part of the Catalogue but all evidence of their existence has simply disappeared”, added Paun.

“The approval process for the “National Catalogue of Virgin and Quasi-Virgin forests” has been grossly unprofessional and abjectly mismanaged. Temperate Europe’s last large tracts of primary and old-growth forests deserve the highest level of protection and caution. Time is of the essence for their survival, yet bureaucratic hurdles and severe mismanagement reveal a systemic lack of both care and seriousness regarding the protection of Romania’s unique forest heritage. The responsible officials have clearly failed in their roles to protect forests within the Catalogue”, said Gabriel Schwaderer of EuroNatur.

EuroNatur and Agent Green call on the Romanian Environmental Ministry to immediately preserve all remaining primary and old-growth forests. At a time when Romania is the subject of an infringement with the EU regarding the loss of primary forests in Natura 2000 sites, this is the first step to remedy this disastrous situation. This would also help Romania meet its obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity and contribute to upcoming EU wide conservation targets of strict protection of 10 % of terrestrial and marine ecosystems.

Background information:
The report Failing our Last Great Forests can be found here: LINK
The campaign “SaveParadiseForests“ aims at protecting the most valuable old-growth forests of Romania. It is jointly coordinated and carried out by the NGOs EuroNatur (Germany) and Agent Green (Romania).

The PRIMOFARO report (PRIMary and Old growth Forest Areas of Romania) by EuroNatur and Agent Green shows that Romania still host more than potentially 525.000 hectares of old growth and virgin forests, more than any other EU member state (outside Scandinavia).

Boia Mica is one of the wildest mountain valleys of Europe. Unfortunately it has not been listed so far with the “National Catalogue”…

Success: Romanian High Court suspends logging plans in Domogled national park

Forest management plans for Domogled – Valea Cernei national park and Natura 2000 site ignore nature conservation laws

The Romanian High Court of Cassation and Justice suspended forest management plans of forest units Cernisoara, Baia de Arama, Balmes, Ivanu and Olanu in the upper sector of Domogled – Valea Cernei National Park, which is also under protection by EU Natura 2000 legislation. The trial was initiated by Agent Green to obtain the annulment of all forest management plans within the park territory, which are in severe contradiction to provisions from mandatory nature protection legislation such as EU’s Habitats and Birds Directives.

The entire national park has been designated as a Natura 2000 site and as a UNESCO World Heritage site (including a buffer zone). However, not even 50% of the forests in the park are under effective protection and have been included in the strictly protected core zone. The rest of the forest, including highly valuable primary and old growth beech forests, is vanishing progressively due to intensive logging.

State forests enterprise Romsilva is controlling the national park management and they have been issuing logging permissions for a large number of forest parcels in the buffer zone. Even old growth and primary beech forests have been sawed down with official papers.

Euronatur foundation and Agent Green welcome the court decision as a major milestone in their campaign to save the outstanding natural forest heritage of Romania. Only recently, the EU Commission has launched infringement procedures against the Romanian state, following a complaint by EuroNatur, Client Earth and Agent Green.

“Domogled National Park can for the first time since many years breath in peace,” Gabriel Paun from Agent Green said. “It’s just the beginning! Agent Green won the High Court of Cassation and Justice trial against the Ministry of Environment and state forests Romsilva. 19369.24 hectares of Domogled National Park – Cernea Valley can no longer be reached for logging as of today. Anyone who sees a wood truck coming out of UP is asked to immediately notify the police. Transportation would be 100% illegal. Any forestry work now means a forest offense and a violation of court decisions,” Paun added. 

The forest management plans for four production units was suspended and with it, all planned cuts. Another trial to achieve anullment of the forest management plans of the production units in lower Cerna valley is still underway and the court decision is awaited.

Agent Green and Euronatur call on the Romanian government to urgently take all necessary measures to ensure that Romsilva and the operating logging companies immediately leave the Domogled National Park and all logging operations will be stopped.

In a next step, the forest management plans have to be changed in a way to fully comply with both Natura 2000 legislation and IUCN Guidelines for Category 2 protected areas, national parks. This means, that commercial forest exploitation must be ended in the whole national park and all natural (old growth and primary) forest stands need to be included in the non intervention zone of the national park.

Furthermore, the non intervention zone fragments must be connected to ensure fullfilment of globally defined IUCN guidelines for national parks. IUCN wording about national parks: “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.”

In the interpretation of the protected area management categories for Europe (EUROPARC and IUCN, 2000), the IUCN guidelines clearly state that management of the IUCN protected category II should eliminate exploitation (of natural resources), including hunting and fishing, and that this is a duty of the authorities responsible for the management of the national park.

Brutal wounds in the paradise: Destructive logging road in unprotected Radoteasa valley – in the middle of Domogled national park.
Unprotected forest wilderness in Cernisoara production unit. Logging there is suspended for the time being – and must not return.