Tag Archives: Natura 2000

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

 

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

Romania: Complaint by Agent Green stops the destruction of natural forest on Mehedinti Plateau

Activists from Agent Green were able to stop an illegal road construction through an old growth forest in south western Romania. Big parts of Mehedinti Pleateau Geopark were threatened, and some parts already destroyed, by plans for a controversial road construction. After the submission of a notification by Agent Green, Romanian state forests enterprise Romsilva had to stop the logging and construction on 2nd October 2019.

The Mehedinți Plateau Geopark (Romanian: Geoparcul Platoul Mehedinți) is a protected area (Natural Park – Category V protected area according to IUCN) situated in Romania, on the administrative territory of counties Gorj (5%) and Mehedinți (95%). It encompasses a hilly area (ravine, gentler valleys, limestone pavements, caves, pit caves, forests, pasture) and shelters a large variety of flora and fauna, including some rare and endemic species.

Nevertheless, Romsilva decided to build a forest road through the park, although they did not have the necessary permit from the park administration and although no adequate environmental assessment had been pursued. It seams very much likely they started to build this unapproved forest road because of logging interests in the Nature park, which is also protected as “Site of Community Interest” under the EU Natura 2000 regime. The old-growth forest on limestone is explicitely under protection of European legislation as habitat type “Medio-European limestone beech forests of the Cephalanthero-Fagion” (9150). The Habitats Directive (Natura 2000) prohibits significant deterioration or degradation of natural habiats in a good conservation status in Natura 2000 sites.

The efforts of environmental activist, Alexandru Teleaga, along with Agent Green turned out into a key success against the illegalities committed by Romsilva. After environmental activists submitted the necessary notifications to the competent authorities, the National Environmental Guard forced Romsilva to immediately stop the forest road construction. Romsilva was forced to bring the forest landscape to its initial state, after they started to build an illegal forest road in Mehedinți Plateau Geopark.

Forest machine in Mehedinți Plateau Geopark © Agent Green
Road construction destroying the forest © Agent Green