Tag Archives: national park

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’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

 

Spectacular climbing action shines spotlight on need to protect primary forests in the Romanian Carpathians

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.

Background information:

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.

 

Protest pentru păduri UNESCO from AGENT GREEN on Vimeo.

Spectacular banner action over UNESCO protected “Cuicevele Cernei” reserve in Romania’s Domogled Valea Cernei National Park. The old road 66a is planned to be enlarged by removing parts of the protected ecosystems of “red rock” – with explosives. (c) Agent Green
Climbing protest action in Romanian Cera valley  to protect old growth and primary forests in Domogled Valea Cernei National Park from expansion of national raoad 66a – and from logging. Parts of the National Park are included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and other regions of Europe”, the road expansion would also severely damage the UNESCO site. (c) Minerva Vinze / Agent Green
Banner protest against planned expansion of national road 66a and against progessing logging in Romania’s Domogled national park. Parts of the National Park are included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and other regions of Europe” – the road would also damage the UNESCO site. (c) Minerva Vinze / Agent Green
The UNESCO Wold Heritage Site “Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and other Regions of Europe” aim to protect these endemic ecosystems. The old reserve “Cuicevele Cernei” in Domogled National Park is part of this transnational World Heritage site. However, Romania wants to dig a new road through these wild beech forests… (c) Matthias Schickhofer
Old, narrow road 66a in Domogled Valea Cernei National Park: dimensions of a forest road, no major disturbance of animal migration routes – leave it as it is… (c) Matthias Schickhofer
First section of the new road 66a in Jiu valley, built 10 years ago: destruction of  ecosystems in the valley, major barrier for wildlife. (c) Matthias Schickhofer
New section of road 66a in Jiu valley (image taken in 2010), at the edge of Retezat National Park. Domogled National Park and the UNESCO site must not be damaged as well. (c) Matthias Schickhofer
EU (Natura 2000) protected natural “ravine forest” in upper Cerna valley in Domogled National Park. The contruction of the new road 66a would severely damage this wild forest landscape. (c) Matthias Schickhofer