Tag Archives: old growth

New report: Failing our last great forests – Romania

New report reveals neglect for virgin forest protection in Romania

++ New report shows: virgin forests don’t get included in the National Catalogue ++ Authorities block or lose studies and willingly prevent the protection of Romanian forests ++

Bucharest/Radolfzell. The failure of Romanian Government to protect the country’s remaining virgin forests following 21 years of resistance and hesitation is starkly revealed in a report, Failing our Last Great Forests, released today by Agent Green and EuroNatur.

The report analyses data related to Romania’s “National Catalogue of Virgin and Quasi-virgin Forests” and uncovers a history of clear dereliction of duty and mismanagement that has directly lead to the logging of Romania’s irreplaceable virgin forests.

The first attempt to preserve these forests dates back to 1999 when the National Strategy for Sustainable Development aimed to preserve at least 400,000 hectares of virgin forests. To date, only 30,062 hectares, or less than 8%, have been protected in the National Catalogue. Agent Green and EuroNatur estimate that at least 110,000 hectares of such forests have been lost in this time.

“This failure of nature protection is not an accident. It highlights a complete lack of political will at the cost of the disappearance, before our eyes, of Europe’s last great forests. Of the few forests protected, many are the result of formal complaints to Forest Guards and public scandals we made in the mountains of Semenic, Tarcu or Godeanu, forests like Cosava Mica, Higeg, Hidigel, Radoteasa and others”, says Gabriel Paun of Agent Green.

The report unveils details of 24,260.56 hectares of virgin forests for which NGOs and scientific organisations, invited by the Government, have authored and submitted for inclusion in the National Catalogue. Incredibly, these studies, representing 80% of all studies submitted, have been either rejected, blocked, returned, and, in the most perverse of situations, lost by the authorities at various stages of the listing process.

It must be noted that scientists have undertaken painstaking research over long time periods of time, often working in difficult remote locations at substantial cost, to submit their work for approval. That their studies have even been lost by Romanian officials is contemptuous of their profession.

Correspondence with Romanian officials has revealed a stark contrast in numbers of reports received and acknowledged between different government entities. The Ministry for Environment claims they have only received studies for 42 forest areas relating to 9,382.70 hectares. Romania’s Forest Guard acknowledges acceptance of studies for 105 areas covering 24,260.54 hectares. No explanation is given for the inconsistent data.

“We are dealing with a Bermuda Triangle syndrome in Romania. The virgin forests are disappearing. For example, ancient forests of Coltii Balei in Buzau county were originally accepted to be part of the Catalogue but all evidence of their existence has simply disappeared”, added Paun.

“The approval process for the “National Catalogue of Virgin and Quasi-Virgin forests” has been grossly unprofessional and abjectly mismanaged. Temperate Europe’s last large tracts of primary and old-growth forests deserve the highest level of protection and caution. Time is of the essence for their survival, yet bureaucratic hurdles and severe mismanagement reveal a systemic lack of both care and seriousness regarding the protection of Romania’s unique forest heritage. The responsible officials have clearly failed in their roles to protect forests within the Catalogue”, said Gabriel Schwaderer of EuroNatur.

EuroNatur and Agent Green call on the Romanian Environmental Ministry to immediately preserve all remaining primary and old-growth forests. At a time when Romania is the subject of an infringement with the EU regarding the loss of primary forests in Natura 2000 sites, this is the first step to remedy this disastrous situation. This would also help Romania meet its obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity and contribute to upcoming EU wide conservation targets of strict protection of 10 % of terrestrial and marine ecosystems.

Background information:
The report Failing our Last Great Forests can be found here: LINK
The campaign “SaveParadiseForests“ aims at protecting the most valuable old-growth forests of Romania. It is jointly coordinated and carried out by the NGOs EuroNatur (Germany) and Agent Green (Romania).

The PRIMOFARO report (PRIMary and Old growth Forest Areas of Romania) by EuroNatur and Agent Green shows that Romania still host more than potentially 525.000 hectares of old growth and virgin forests, more than any other EU member state (outside Scandinavia).

Boia Mica is one of the wildest mountain valleys of Europe. Unfortunately it has not been listed so far with the “National Catalogue”…

Success: Romanian High Court suspends logging plans in Domogled national park

Forest management plans for Domogled – Valea Cernei national park and Natura 2000 site ignore nature conservation laws

The Romanian High Court of Cassation and Justice suspended forest management plans of forest units Cernisoara, Baia de Arama, Balmes, Ivanu and Olanu in the upper sector of Domogled – Valea Cernei National Park, which is also under protection by EU Natura 2000 legislation. The trial was initiated by Agent Green to obtain the annulment of all forest management plans within the park territory, which are in severe contradiction to provisions from mandatory nature protection legislation such as EU’s Habitats and Birds Directives.

The entire national park has been designated as a Natura 2000 site and as a UNESCO World Heritage site (including a buffer zone). However, not even 50% of the forests in the park are under effective protection and have been included in the strictly protected core zone. The rest of the forest, including highly valuable primary and old growth beech forests, is vanishing progressively due to intensive logging.

State forests enterprise Romsilva is controlling the national park management and they have been issuing logging permissions for a large number of forest parcels in the buffer zone. Even old growth and primary beech forests have been sawed down with official papers.

Euronatur foundation and Agent Green welcome the court decision as a major milestone in their campaign to save the outstanding natural forest heritage of Romania. Only recently, the EU Commission has launched infringement procedures against the Romanian state, following a complaint by EuroNatur, Client Earth and Agent Green.

“Domogled National Park can for the first time since many years breath in peace,” Gabriel Paun from Agent Green said. “It’s just the beginning! Agent Green won the High Court of Cassation and Justice trial against the Ministry of Environment and state forests Romsilva. 19369.24 hectares of Domogled National Park – Cernea Valley can no longer be reached for logging as of today. Anyone who sees a wood truck coming out of UP is asked to immediately notify the police. Transportation would be 100% illegal. Any forestry work now means a forest offense and a violation of court decisions,” Paun added. 

The forest management plans for four production units was suspended and with it, all planned cuts. Another trial to achieve anullment of the forest management plans of the production units in lower Cerna valley is still underway and the court decision is awaited.

Agent Green and Euronatur call on the Romanian government to urgently take all necessary measures to ensure that Romsilva and the operating logging companies immediately leave the Domogled National Park and all logging operations will be stopped.

In a next step, the forest management plans have to be changed in a way to fully comply with both Natura 2000 legislation and IUCN Guidelines for Category 2 protected areas, national parks. This means, that commercial forest exploitation must be ended in the whole national park and all natural (old growth and primary) forest stands need to be included in the non intervention zone of the national park.

Furthermore, the non intervention zone fragments must be connected to ensure fullfilment of globally defined IUCN guidelines for national parks. IUCN wording about national parks: “Large natural or near natural areas set aside to protect large-scale ecological processes, along with the complement of species and ecosystems characteristic of the area, which also provide a foundation for environmentally and culturally compatible spiritual, scientific, educational, recreational and visitor opportunities.”

In the interpretation of the protected area management categories for Europe (EUROPARC and IUCN, 2000), the IUCN guidelines clearly state that management of the IUCN protected category II should eliminate exploitation (of natural resources), including hunting and fishing, and that this is a duty of the authorities responsible for the management of the national park.

Brutal wounds in the paradise: Destructive logging road in unprotected Radoteasa valley – in the middle of Domogled national park.
Unprotected forest wilderness in Cernisoara production unit. Logging there is suspended for the time being – and must not return.

 

EU announces legal action against Romanian authorities for illegal logging of Europe’s last natural forest

The European Commission has announced today its decision to pursue legal action against Romanian authorities over their systemic and continuous failure to protect Europe’s last natural forests.

The announcement follows complaints submitted last year to the European Commission by environmental groups Agent Green, ClientEarth and EuroNatur against Romania’s ongoing and deliberate destruction of tens of thousands of hectares of its protected old-growth and primeval forests.

The groups claimed that Romania’s state forestry management is conducting logging operations within protected Natura 2000 areas without proper analysis of the impact in these unique sites. Failure to carry adequate and strategic environmental assessments when approving logging in protected areas and lack of access to environmental information breaches EU law.

The environmental groups therefore welcome the launch of the Commission’s infringement proceedings against Romania as a new hope to protect the country’s natural forests.

ClientEarth lawyer Ewelina Tylec-Bakalarz said: “The destruction of Romanian forests is a huge systemic problem far exceeding in scale the illegal logging of Poland’s Bialowieza forest, which was the basis of our legal challenge three years ago.”

“The Romanian government has repeatedly failed to fulfil its obligations to protect its forests under European environmental law. By opening infringement proceedings against Romania, the European Commission is sending a clear signal that it takes this problem very seriously. This is an important warning that Romania must stop blatantly disregarding its legal obligation to protect these unique forests”.

Gabriel Schwaderer, CEO of the German EuroNatur Foundation added: “Romania is still home to more than half a million hectares of primary and old-growth forests, although enormous areas have been logged since 2007 when the country joined the EU. Natura 2000 sites are hot spots of logging. EU legislation has been widely ignored. Thus, the Commission intervention comes last minute and we urge to speed up the process as it is the only real chance to save a very large share of Europe’s last great natural forests. They are home to many important and threatened animal and plant species and they store enormous amounts of CO2”.

Gabriel Paun of Agent Green warned: “Imagine for example a single clear cut on a surface of 3700 hectares in Maramures Natura 2000 site, the region where Liviu Pop, a local forest ranger has been killed recently. The place looks like a battlefield and is larger than the entire city of Brussels. We have documented 10 000 hectares of logging in this protected area including in priority habitats made of ash and alder trees. These woods were home for bears, wolves, lynx and many wonderful wild creatures. Economically, at least 5 million m3 of wood in value of at least a quarter of a billion euros are missing just from the clear cuts we documented in this site. But the same happens in Fagaras, the Carpathian most beloved mountains and other Natura 2000 sites. These actions happen in both, state and privately owned forests. The situation is completely out of control”.

Agent Green, ClientEarth and EuroNatur welcome the action taken by the European Commission and call on the Romanian Government to:

  • Immediately start complying with Nature Directives.
  • Strictly preserve all remaining primary and old-growth forests as indicated in PRIMOFARO inventory that overlaps with Natura 2000 network.
  • Protect primary and old-growth forests located outside Natura 2000 sites.
    Publish logging plans and forest age data of all forest management plans of Natura 2000 sites.

As part of the infringement proceedings launched today against Romania for illegal logging within its Natura 2000 sites, the Commission is also taking legal action for Romania’s failure to properly implement the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) by allowing illegally harvested timber to enter the EU market.

The Romanian government has now just one month to send a detailed reply to the concerns raised by the European Commission. The Commission will then decide whether to take further steps towards bringing the case before the Court of Justice of the European Union – the EU’s highest court.

Background information:

Romania still has more than 525 000 hectares of potential old-growth and primary forests, which is more than any other EU Member State (outside Scandinavia).

The PRIMOFARO inventory (Primary and Old Growth Forest Areas of Romania), an analysis by EuroNatur and Agent Green, reveals that forest destruction moves ahead quickly.

Despite efforts by Romanian civil society groups to stop illegal logging, the situation in Romania has continued to spiral out of control. The official national forest inventory shows that on top of 18 million m3 of legally harvested wood, another 8.8 million m3 of forest were extracted annually between 2009 and 2013 and increased to 20.6 million m3 annually between 2014 and 2018.

Giant clear cut on steep mountain terrain in southern part of Romania’s Fagaras Mountains Natura 2000 site.