Tag Archives: national park

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

Romania: Biologist of Semenic National Park quits job protesting against logging

Sinculeț Teodora Alina: „During 15 years I submitted many complaints, but no action was taken. The management contract was broken on a daily basis by the park administration“…

The conflict about logging in Romania’s Semenic- Caraş Gorge National Park is intensifying. Romsilva, the state forest agency in charge of managing protected area mainly on state property, has been criticized by NGOs for intense logging in high conservation value forests and for the intention to decrease the park’s strictly protected core zone from 47.5% to 32%.

Recently, the national parks biologist, Sinculeț Teodora Alina, quit her job in protest against ongoing logging of the park’s valuable natural forests. She published a manifesto explaining her decision. Here is an excerpt:

„I decided to resign and to quit my job after almost 15 years of activity as a biologist for Semenic National Park. My decision was determined after I was put under pressure for doing my job and for fullfiling complaints when I discovered illegalities happening inside the National Park.

During my 15 years in the office I submitted complaints to almost all authorities that are in charge of control and inspection of the management of the park – to all the managers of the park, to all general managers of Romsilva, state secretaries and ministries, prosecutors, police officials, forest guard inspectors and environment investigators. No action was taken against those who broke the law.

Because of all these complaints I was threatened and received a lot of pressure from my superiors and came to the point that I felt my integrity, life and my families safety were affected.”

„I love my job and I dedicated the last 15 years to protect biodiversity“

“It was very difficult for me to resign, because I love my job and I dedicated the last 15 years to protect and preserve the biodiversity inside the park. My resignation is also a form of extreme protest to raise more attention regarding the destruction of Protected Areas and Natural Reserves, but it is also a way of protecting myself and my family against future threats.”

Aljazeera report about the tragedy of Semenic national park…

A long list of illegalities…

“It is difficult to summarise in a few pages all the illegalities that happened inside the park, but I will pinpoint the main reasons for my decision to resign.

• The national park management contract signed in 2014 between Romsilva and the Environment Ministry was broken on a daily basis by the park administration.
• The dismissal of the entire body of specialists from the Scientific Council in 2016, because the council was against logging inside the park and asked permanently for impact studies inside natural areas to be submitted.
• I was against logging inside Cheile Carasului Reserve, Unit production Comarnic, that was allowed by administration officials who forged documents and modified the reserve limits.
• I was against the logging permits issued between 2004-2018 and ravaged the old-growth forests inside Barzavita, Buhui Marghitas Cheile Carasului Reserves and inside special conservation areas inside Caraslui Gorges and Buhui.
• The park employers did not receive the proper instruction regarding field work, we did not receive proper equipment for our work and we did not receive proper training on how to prepare and fight against forests fire. Fire inside Semenic forests is a real problem.
• The park administration did not comply to Romanian legislation regarding archiving all the official administration documents (such as logging permits, fines, approvals) and the administration does not have a legal archive as the law requires.
• No fine was given and no measure was taken against the logging companies who affected the environment and polluted rivers with industrial oil and other illegal debris.
• No fine and no measure was taken against illegal logging companies and those who did illegal natural resource harvesting such as surface mining.
• No fine and no measure was taken against illegal constructions that were build inside the park limits.”

„National park manager forbade me to visit logging areas“

“In many cases the national park manager forbade me to visit areas were aggressive logging was active, especially in areas were old-growth forests were still standing. In many cases the manager of the park used the park wild video surveillance cameras for hunting purposes.

Romsilva and the management of the park opposed the Scientific Council decision taken in February 2013 that stated 48% of the Semenic National Park should be a strictly protected area – a decision that was supported also by the Romanian Academy, the Timisoara branch. Myself and two other colleagues were put under pressure from several Romsilva managers for supporting the 48% non intervention area.

I have always dreamed to work passionately in a national park administration and I have dedicated all my personal resources for this. I have endured many wrongdoings, pressure and threats from Romsilva and park officials, but I managed to find my strength to overpass all these and continued to fight to save each parcel of protected and old-growth forest, tried to save each ancient tree that was worth saving.

I got to the point when with a lot of grief I resigned from the position of biologist as a last form of protest against the destruction that happens inside Semenic, against the pressure and threats that many honest employees of the park have to endure.

I really hope that the Enviromental Minister will take things seriously, will take back control over the national parks, will decide to manage the national parks without Romsilva and finally will investigate all the wrongdoing and illegalities inside the park and will punish the ones responsible for the atrocities.“

Logging depot in Toplita valley.
NGOs start legal action against destruction of Semenic National Park

Recently, the NGOs Agent Green and Neuer Weg started legal proceedings against the Caraş Severin Environmental Protection Agency to cancel the management plan of the Semenic National Park managed by Romsilva, which intends to increase the exploitable area to 68% of the park.

The strictly protected area decreased by 5,527 ha compared to the proposal endorsed in 2013 by the Scientific Council and recommended by the Romanian Academy (Timisoara branch). The Semenic-Cheile Caraşului National Park is a tragic, yet clear example illustrating the fraudulent management of the national parks in Romania.

“Romsilva wants more exploitation within the National Park and in the absence of specialists, the Ministry of the Environment does not generally oppose this administrator who is unable to understand what a national park means and preserving biodiversity,” said Gabriel Păun, president of Agent Green.

Semenic is also a Natura 2000 site of European interest, so it is also subject to the regime of the European Nature Directives. “If the diabolical plan of Romsilva will be backed by the ministry, then we also take into consideration to call on the European Commission to launch legal procedures for severely sanctioning Romania’s foolishness. Poland tried the same thing last year in Bialowieza National Park and was stopped by an infringement procedure and the European Court of Justice,“ warns Paun.

Inspection by Romanian Senator Gotiu in Semenic National Park

Senator Mihai Gotiu (USR) visited Semenic – Caras Gorge National Park. He urged to stop the destruction of the protected area and for the removal of Romsilva from the park’s administration.

„Because I am sick of abuses and illegalities, as well as evasive answers and endless delays from the Ministry for the Environment and Ministry for Water and Forests, I have notified the Commission for the Investigation of Abuses, Petitions and Fight Against Corruption in the Senate, requesting the establishment of a parliamentary inquiry commission of all the illegalities we have documented over the last two years in the area. There is no time to wait. If the Romsilva plan to allow logging in two thirds of the national park gets approved, the Semenic National Park – Carasul Gorge will be turned into sawdust,“ Senator Gotiu said.