Tag Archives: primary

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.

 

Primary forest research in Romania’s Fagaras Mountains compromised by logging

Primary forest research project REMOTE calls for urgent protection of high nature and science value forests in Romania

In late December 2018, the REMOTE project  (REsearch on MOuntain TEmperate Primary Forests) published a worrying report highlighting immediate threats to their outstanding primary forest research program in the Fagaras Mountains in the Romanian Carpathians.

The Fagaras mountains, the highest in Romania, host the “largest areas of primary forests in the entire EU“, the report explains. Scientists from the Czech Republic and Slovakia estimate a total surface of primary forest of about 10,000 hectares in the region. In addition, further extensive areas are covered by other valuable natural forests, which “connect primary forest localities into larger complexes of high naturalness“. Therefore, the Fagaras Mountains deserve “special attention and conservation“.

REMOTE project: biggest primary forest research
The REMOTE research project is one of the biggest dendrochronological primary forest research programs in the world. It is a long-term international research collaboration, led by the Department of Forest Ecology (Faculty of Forestry and Wood Sciences at Czech University of Life Sciences) in Prague. This comprehensive scientific research program started in 2010. The project is based on a network of permanent sample plots (defined research areas) over a large range of primary forests in nine countries in central, eastern, and southeastern Europe.

The main research goals are to conduct “spatial and temporal analyses focusing on various aspects of disturbance regimes in primary forests” and to perform “dendrochronological studies”. In other words: the scientists measure impacts of disturbances (such as wind breaks, insect outbreaks etc.) on untouched forests over a long period of time and they collect data about past tree growth based on tree rings from individual trees.
Such studies have never been undertaken on this scale and over such a large geographic range and their database is one of the largest on this topic in the world.

Primary forest research to inform sustainable forest management
The REMOTE project aims to understand natural dynamics and then help to develop sustainable forest management practices – which will produce wood, but also sustain biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Several hundreds of permanent study plots have been established and are evaluated over a long period of time. Data is collected and compared periodically during exhausting field trips into the wild and remote forests. The project delivers a better scientific understanding of change dynamics of primary forests over a long period of time. The data includes measurements of changes in forests structure, habitats of rare species and measurements of individual tree growth. The project has established a database containing thousands of individual trees.

In the Fagaras mountains, approximatley 200 research plots have been established in eleven remote valleys. The scientists have identified several primary forest areas over 1000 hectares. Such primary forest valleys no longer exist anywhere else in the temperate climate zone of the EU. They are critical habitat for many protected species – including bears, lynx, wolves, capercaillie, owls, woodpeckers and saproxylic beetles.

Gallery: REMOTE project research works in Fagaras mountains

 

Europe’s wildest mountain valley: Boia Mică in southern Fagaras
One of the most outstanding primary forest valleys is Boia Mică which covers 1,145 ha with an altitudinal difference of 1,670m over a distance of 7.5 km. The valley is completely pristine: there isn’t even a path. “This is probably one of the oldest forests of Romania: We measured 37 trees older than 300 years, 10 trees older than 400 years, and 1 tree older than 500 years on only 14 randomly selected study plots in Boia Mică,“ REMOTE coordinator Martin Mikoláš reports.

REMOTE project researchers found an extraordinary concentration of very old trees in Boia Mica valley – with numerous beech trees older than 400 years.
Boia Mica: No path leads into the wilderness.

High science and nature value forests under immediate logging threat

The project findings highlight the value of this unique and huge complex of primary forests. Primary forests are not only of high value for scientists and biodiversity – they also help protect the climate by storing large amounts of carbon, they are important for water cycle regulation and stabilize mountain’s slopes. Once they are destroyed, it will take hundreds of years to regenerate, in particular in high mountains.

“Primary forests and natural forests are so rare, that we need to prevent any further loss. Not only in tropics, but also in Europe,” Martin Mikoláš explains.

In the past, these wild forests were protected by default through their inaccessibility. But this is changing rapidly: forest roads and logging are moving into the valleys, even into the heart of Natura 2000 sites. Some of their first plots have been destroyed together with the surrounding forest. Forest “management“ in Fagaras mountains so far has been including very large clear cuts destroying the entire landscape along with the complete loss of high conservation value habitats. The scientists therefore urge for stricter protection.

 

Logging in unmapped primary spruce forest in Ucea Mare valley.

Incomplete primary forest mapping, bureaucratic obstacles and inconsistent preservation 

WWF Romania had previously pursued some mapping of primary forests in Fagaras. They identified thousands of hectares of primary forests, in particular in some northern valleys. However, the REMOTE scientists detected more primary forests which have clearly not been included in the WWF mapping. One main problem is that the criteria for identification of primary forest are extremely strict and can easily exclude important forest.

Overview Arpaselu, Arpasul, Ucea Mare and Ucisoara valleys: not all primary forest stands have not been mapped yet. White polygons: mapped by WWF, red polygons: unmapped primary forest, green dots: permanent study plots.
Primary spruce stands in Sambata valley with permanent study plots: not mapped, not protected.

WWF Romania has been developing numerous studies about primary forests in order to include them in the “National Catalogue of Virgin Forests“ for strict protection. But there are several problems connected to this official Romanian “virgin forest“ protection program: forest management plans often underestimate the average age of forest parcels. As a consequence, authorities sometimes do not accept those forests than as a “virgin forest“. The management plans also often allow cutting in parts of forest parcels. Once these cuts are done, the forest parcel is compromised and authorities do reject the inclusion of the forest as a “virgin forest“, including remaining intact stands.

Even within already mapped polygons logging occurs, because owners did not accept protection. In Belia valley for instance, a large clearcut (20 hectares) and several kilometers of new forest roads cut now through primary forests.

Furthermore, it takes a long time until the submitted forest areas are included in the “Catalogue“ due in part to year-long bureaucratic approval procedures with authorities.

At this stage – according to WWF Romania, Greenpeace Romania and Foundation Conservation Carpathia – between 3 and 5 thousand hectares in Fagaras mountains have been inscribed in the „Catalogue“ (Link). But there are additionally between 6 and 7 thousand hectares of primary and virgin forest more and they are under serious threat as long as they are not included.

Gallery: Many primary forests in Fagaras mountains have been excluded from mapping (and protection) so far. Thus, REMOTE permanent study plots are under threat…

 

Offense against researchers during a regular hike
In the summer of 2018, the scientists spent several weeks in the wilderness of Fagaras mountains. As they returned from a hike to primary forests they found their car (parked outside a barrier) damaged with deliberately punctured tyres.
This is worrisome to the scientists – what will come next?
Their research work is based upon official permits.

According to media and NGO reports Illegal logging seems to be present in many areas in Romania. Attracting more international tourists are a key economic perspective of many remote areas in the Carpathians. Attacks against foreigner visitors will certainly hamper this option severely.

Comprehensive protection of larger forest areas is key
The REMOTE scientists conclude that action must be taken now to halt the loss of these internationally important primary forests. They  point out that it is crucial to avoid creating a fragmented system of protected forests – surrounded by heavy logging. In order to preserve the ecological integrity of these forest habitats (and their inhabiting species) the comprehensive protection of larger, connected forest ecosystems is needed. Therefore protection should also include natural forests which do not meet the strict legal definition of “virgin forests“ in Romania to create a better connected network of non intervention areas.

Only the protection of larger forest landscapes will prevent the Fagaras mountains from ending up like other degraded forests everywhere else in Europe: isolated, fragments of natural forests disconnected by large areas with industrial forestry – including clear cuts and even aged monocultures and non natural tree crops.

This kind of degraded landscape does not preserve our natural heritage but also damages the ecosystems so far that ecosystem services will no longer be provided.

To read the full Fagaras Rreport (by Martin Mikoláš and Ondrej Kameniar), please click here.

More reading?  Report “Where are Europe’s last primary forests?”

You can help to help to protect the largest complex of primary forests within the temperate zone of the EU- the Fagaras Mountains – and other natural forests in Romania: please sign our petition and forward this story to friends!

Destroyed permanent study plot in Ucisoara valley: help to save these unique forests and the important REMOTE research work!
Ancient world of Arpasul valley: wilderness of this quality has been almost extinct in Europe. Please help to preserve it!

 

Environmental massacre in Albania’s primary forests

Rampant illegal logging in Albania’s biggest national park is ravaging primeval woodland protected by UNESCO

In 2016, Albania imposed a 10-year moratorium on logging in all its forests and banned timber exports. The move followed decades of untrammelled exploitation that had denuded the country’s once-lush slopes and hastened erosion.

However, despite a total ban on logging and registration of parts of Albania’s biggest national park Shebenik-Jabllanice as a UNESCO world heritage site, criminal networks are ravaging its primeval forests to supply logs to the domestic firewood market, an investigation by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN, reveals.

According to Global Forest Watch the forest cover of Albania went down to 17 per cent of the country (2010). One of the biggest chunks of remaining woodland is in the Shebenik-Jabllanice National Park, which accounts for 70 per cent of Albania’s biodiversity, according to the Albanian Ecology Club conservation group.

Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) published a in depth feature story about the criminal operations in the national park and UNESCO world heritage site. 
You can read the full story here.