Tag Archives: IUCN

UNESCO and IUCN visit Romania’s paradise forests

++ UNESCO and IUCN representatives in the forest of the Carpathians ++ Forest conservationists have already referred to clear cuts in UNESCO buffer zones and national parks ++ Tactics of concealment by the state forestry company Romsilva prevented ++

A delegation of representatives of UNESCO and IUCN visited the paradise forests in the Romanian Carpathians. The reason was a so-called “reactive mission”, which serves to report on the conditions of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. At least at the meeting on 18.11.2019 in the Baile Herculane forest in Domogled – Valea Cernei national park, two activists of Agent Green were present. From the Romanian side, among others, the
head of Romsilva, Mihailescu, as well as numerous foresters and two delegates of the Ministry of Environment were present at the meetings.

The four main topics of discussion on Monday were the construction of the national road DN66A, the forest areas in the UNESCO World Heritage buffer zones as well as pasture management in these and planned hydropower plants in Romania.

EuroNatur and Agent Green were not invited for an excursion to the forests. Probably, so that Romsilva could only show intact forests to the representatives of the international institutions to underline their lies that in Romania’s forests everything is in order. To prevent this, however, EuroNatur and Agent Green had previously sent a letter to the delegation informing them with background information and information on nearby clear cuts, so that they could demand a visit to these areas as well. Thus, the representatives could also see the fatal reality in Romania’s forests. They visited, for example, the clear cuts in the Craiova valley and the Oplesata mountain peak, which border the UNESCO core zones. The delegates also visited the Arjana and Dobraia areas, where they could vitness the consequences of the recent forest fires in the Domogled national park. The days before, they had visited the area in Ciucevele Cernei, where in July 2019 EuroNatur and Agent Green protested together with Robin Wood against the construction of the national road DN66A. The construction of the road would cause massive destruction of valuable forests. The UNESCO and IUCN delegation also reiterated the need for a comprehensive environmental impact assessment of the impact on forests in these areas before construction continues.

In the discussion, Agent Green activists were able to highlight the numerous other deforestations in UNESCO World Heritage buffer zones as well as the lack of implementation of the IUCN criteria for at least 75% core zones in national parks. Already in July, Romania was criticised by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for the handling of its parts of the World Heritage sites. EuroNatur executive director Gabriel Schwaderer already expressed his concerns about the World Heritage Site at that time: “We have to fear that this extraordinary World Heritage site will soon be classified as ‘endangered’ – and this would include the German parts. The management of the Romanian areas has not improved in recent years, and now there’s a pressing need to take remedial action. The World Heritage Committee is already entering escalation level 1 by announcing to carry out a re-assessment of the World Heritage areas. We hope that this pressure will finally make the Romanian government rethink. Romania is hosting an ancient forest treasure that has long been lost almost everywhere else in Europe”.

All in all, the visit showed that both UNESCO and IUCN are keeping an eye on what is happening in Romania’s forests. Representatives of both institutions urge both a more comprehensive assessment of the impact of infrastructure projects on forests and a better management of this natural resource. They call on Romania to step up its protection efforts. A detailed report by the delegation, which will hopefully contain these points with clear statements, will follow shortly.

forest in Domogled national park © Matthias Schickhofer

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 …

Forest fires destroy Romania’s Domogled National Park and threaten nature and people

Forests are burning all over the world: in the Amazon, in California, in Central Europe last summer – and now also in the Carpathian Mountains. On Saturday, 26th October, fires started in Romania´s largest National Park: Domogled National Park which is also a EU Natura 2000 site and part of a transnational UNESCO World Heritage Site to the protect the most precious primary beech forests of Europe. Fires are still burning and keep destroying valuable forests. Even five days after the first fire started, no adequate fire management is set in place and it seems like central authorities ignore these threats to the forest as well as to local communities.

Agent Green volunteer  Alexandru Teleaga, who has discovered the fires while hiking on Saturday, is deeply concerned about the forests and even more frustrated  because authorities don´t properly support the communities which try to stop the fires from the ground. He reported: “After I climbed on the Arjana mountain, I saw that the fire was between trees and not supervised and the wind was pushing it towards the forest. At 16 o´clock, I called the emergency number to announce the fire and told them that everything was dry and no water source there for any natural protection of a fire spread. They said they will send a team there. I also informed two employees from the park administration. The fire increased, and when the teams arrived, they were only people on the ground which are not enough to halt such a fast spreading fire. They were only able to reduce the fire a little but had to leave in the evening and leave the fire burning during the night”.

Also, Mihai Gotiu, USR Senator of the region Cluj, wrote on his Facebook account that he had called Raed Arafat, the head of the Emergency Department, several times. But a helicopter – which would decrease the fires way more effectively than the people on the ground – was not sent until now (status: 30th October). Parts of the fires also lie within the Belareca nature reserve. People not only in the area affected by the fires, but around Romania are shocked and wondering why no aerial support is offered. And this even though last week the Vulcan nature reserve was already heavily destroyed by fires. 

Of the two fires which started on Saturday one has, luckily, been put out already by the local community and supporters. But a second one in the area of Cornereva is still burning and thus threatening several villages and the forest around them. Alexandru Teleaga further reported: “Sunday the fire increased suddenly very much as the wind blew from south and pushed it towards the mountain. They sent only people on the ground without helicopter. People told me they couldn’t do much from the ground. In the evening the whole mountain Arjana was burning. The forest burned is in the core zone of the national park and is moving towards Prisacina village” Most of the people living in the villages live from subsistence farming. The fire threatenes their fields and livestock. There are discussions going on about a necessary evacuation. Still, it is outraging that these people get only little support to halt these fires to stop the possible catastrophe they are facing.

This area of Domogled National Park holds old-growth and primary forest of outstanding value. Big parts of the very old beech forests have been added to the UNESCO World Heritage siteprotecting Eureopan beech forests only back in 2017. These valuable forests are home to several rare and even endemic plant, animal and fungi species.

All measures to stop the fires and protect the forests and villages must be taken immediately. EuroNatur and Agent Green have been concerned about logging in Domogled National Park (see investigation video “Out of Control” on Domogled National Park here) and are now concerned about these outstanding forest being lost to the fires.

fire burning on Arjana mountain © Alexandru Teleaga
© Alexandru Teleaga
© Alexandru Teleaga