Tag Archives: logging

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 …

Longo mai organized a day dedicated to the forests: “We need the forest and the forest needs us”

On Sunday, 03.11., Longo mai had organised a theme day on forests which took place in Basel (Switzerland). The event focused mainly on the situation of forests in the Carpathians. The occasion was the support of the campaign “Free Svydovets” which is committed to the preservation of a near-natural forest in the Ukrainian Carpathians. Unfortunately, this valuable forest is threatened by construction plans for a planned ski resort.

Since Ukraine imposed an export ban on roundwood (unprocessed wood that has only been cut into sections) in 2015, many observers suspect that the exchange of timber on the Romanian-Ukrainian border has increased massively. There is much to suspect that roundwood is being smuggled from Ukraine to Romania for resale. In addition, roundwood is probably declared and exported as firewood in the Ukraine, but then, once outside Ukraine, sold as roundwood again (roundwood is much more expensive than firewood). The overexploitation of forests in the Carpathians, both in Romania and in Ukraine, threatens the last primeval and natural forests in Europe.

The clear cuts in Ukraine, however, are not only due to illegal timber trade; the ancient forests are also being logged for big tourist projects. For example, the Svydovets mountain massif, which is characterised by old and species-rich forests, is to be almost completely cleared and to be replaced by a gigantic ski resort. There, 28000 hotel beds, supermarkets and even an own aerodrm are plannd to be built. This is outraging idea is planned by the oligarch Igor Kolomoiski, who already owns a ski resort on the neighbouring mountain.

Svydovets includes the 3000ha beech forest area “Carpathian biosphere reserve Svydovets” protected by UNESCO, which is also a part of the transnational world natural heritage “Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe”, which also includes a large part of the Romanian beech forests as well as small areas from Germany (e.g. Jasmund and Hainich National Park). Although the resort is planned to be a few metres away from the World Heritage Site (600m according to the activists at the event), it is very likely that the forest will still suffer from the ecological consequences of the construction and operation of the resort.

The mountain massif with its alpine pastures, natural lakes and old forests is home to 93 endangered (national red list) animal and plant species, including brown bear, lynx, capercaillie and Carpathian newt.

Free Svydovets has launched a petition that can be signed here: https://freesvydovets.org/en/

Additionally, the issue of the safety of foresters and activists also played an important role in the event. Forest conservationists and foresters in the Carpathians are under massive threat: In Romania, two foresters/rangers that have been combating illegal logging have been murdered in recent weeks. Unfortunately, these are not single cases: The Romanian Forest Union has registered 650 attacks and 6 murders of forest workers and rangers in the last five years. The Ukrainian activists* reported that the population of the surrounding villages in Svydovets are massively intimidated and therefore do not defend themselves against the large-scale project.

There is an urgent need for the governments of Ukraine and Romania to ensure and fully implement the laws on forest protection. Since Romania also disregards EU nature conservation law, the EU Commission also has an important role to play.

Because we need the forest and now the forest needs our help!

 

The event was organised by the Longo mai cooperative. Speeches were given by the author Ernst Zürcher (“The Trees and the Invisible”), the two representatives of the Free Svydovets campaigns Iris and Oreste del Sol as well as Dr. Lukas Straumann (Bruno-Manser Fonds) and two representatives of the Longo maï Cooperative Treynas in the French Massif Central, who are committed to sustainable forest management there.

Presentation of the Campaign “Free Svydovets” © Janinka Lutze
One presentation slide showing the location of Svydovets © Janinka Lutze
Many interested people at the event © Janinka Lutze
Information material on forests in Romania and Ukraine © Janinka Lutze

Romania’s Domogled National Park: Fresh logging in primary forests threatens UNESCO World Heritage Site

Domogled – Valea Cernei National Park in the Southern Carpathians is one of the EU’s premier natural landscapes: steep limestone cliffs, Arcadian mountain pastures, hot springs, endemic black pines and huge natural beech forests are all found there. To protect these special values, a national park (Romania’s largest), a Natura 2000 protected area and component parts of the transnational UNESCO World Natural Heritage site for the protection of European beech forests have been established here. Unfortunately, however, more than 50% of the forests in the national park are excluded from the park’s core protection zones and are treated as industrial exploitation forests by the Romanian state forests. The result: primary and old growth forests are continuously logged in the middle of this precious national park.

Only a week ago, a large forest fire destroyed valuable forests and threatened farmhouses near the small hamlet of Dobraia. The central authorities in Bucharest were unable to effectively fight the fire in the protected area. Only oncoming rain helped dampen the fire’s impact.

However, another round of bad news came in just today. The National Park administration (which is controlled by Romania’s state forest agency, Romsilva) has allegedly approved logging in primary beech forests immediately adjacent to the border of the UNESCO World Heritage core zone Iauna Craiova. Pictures that were transmitted to us today show a very recent intensive cutting in the primary beech forest. Also in adjacent old forests, many very ancient beech trees have also already been marked for cutting.

Fresh cutting on primary beech forest at the boundary of Iauna Craiova UNESCO World Heritage Site component part
Fresh cutting in primary beech forest at the boundary of Iauna Craiova UNESCO World Heritage Site component part © Alexandru Teleaga
Marked for the chainsaw: Ancient beech tree in a primary forest in Domogled – Valea Cernei national park and Natura 2000 site © Alexandru Teleaga

The entire Domogled – Valea National Park is designated as buffer zone for a component of the UNESCO World Heritage site for the protection of European beech forests. The primary forest Iauna Craiova covers more than 1,000 hectares of wild, untouched forests. Directly next to this area there are more primary forest stands which were not originally included in the World Heritage core zone, most likely because the state forest manager had the intention to log them in the future. However, the World Heritage Convention prohibits any exploitation in buffer zones that endangers the ecological integrity of the core zone. Clear-cuts in primary forests, immediately adjacent to the core zone boundary, are undoubtedly a threat to the ecological integrity of the World Heritage site.

This transboundary World Heritage property Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe stretches over 12 countries. Any deliberate damage to a component part in one of the participating countries threatens the property as a whole and UNESCO could decide to take the whole property in 12 countries off the list. Sites like Serrahn or Jasmund Nationalpark in Germany or Kalkalpen Nationalpark in Austria would then lose their World Heritage status. 

Only in July 2019 Romania was reprimanded by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for logging in the UNESCO buffer zones. But apparently this UNESCO decision hasn’t changed the attitudes of Romsilva.

EuroNatur and Agent Green hope that the new Romanian government values the country’s international reputation more than the fallen Cabinet of Prime Minister Dancila – and takes international laws and conventions protecting Romania’s unique forest heritage more seriously. Immediate intervention is necessary to ensure the protection of Romania’s irreplaceable primary and old-growth forests.

Primary beech forests inside the UNESCO site are protected because of their “outstanding universal value”. Primary beech forests outside the core zone are not worth any protection at all? © Alexandru Teleaga