Tag Archives: primeval

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.

Investigation Video: Romania’s State Forestry Enterprise Caught Illegally Logging in National Park

Romania – Europe’s largest tracts of old growth forests in Romania are being deliberately and illegally destroyed by state forest agency Romsilva. A new video investigation reveals hard proof of large scale forest devastation in Calimani National Park in the eastern Carpathians. Unofficially, in 2017 alone, about 70.000m3 of wood were logged in the protected area, an equivalent of 200 ha of old growth forests.

“The situation in Calimani National Park is completely out of control. The level of mismanagement and nature destruction, driven by Romsilva, is unacceptable,“ Agent Green and EuroNatur Foundation conclude. They urgently call on the Romanian Ministry for Environment to immediately dismiss Romsilva from managing protected areas, to stop any industrial logging in national parks and to take decisive action to save the EU’s largest wild forest ecosystems.

Agent Green investigator and journalist Andrei Ciurcanu visited the Calimani National Park during several investigations between 2017 and 2018. He detected scandalous devastation in the middle of the protected area: large clearcuts, brutally built forest roads, funicular lines, polluted and destroyed alpine river beds and muddy valley bottoms cleared for vast wood depots – just adjacent touristic trails. The responsibility for this disaster lies with Romsilva, who controls the national park management and administers wood exploitation in the national park.

OUT OF CONTROL #ep4 Calimani National Park from AGENT GREEN on Vimeo.

Besides the massive loss of trees, the investigation video also shows how the logs are being dragged through river beds, thereby destroying these once pure freshwater ecosystems. The logging spreads over several square kilometers and whole mountain ranges are now clear cut.

National park rangers are familiar with these illegal practices. But they obviously fear losing their job if they would administer fines. A forester, who talks only on the protection of his identity, gives an example of the functioning of the malicious system: 20 years ago, after a large wind-fell, „shady things“ happened. „Romsilva people promised wood to a Turkish company. They stalled removal of bark beetle infested trees for almost 2 years. This allowed the bark beetle to spread. At the end they could log twice as much as planned.“ This gigantic logging area is still an enormous ecological wound and forest recovery is slow because of the size of the clearing.

Peter Abran was a member of the park’s Scientific Council and a specialist of Mures Environmental Agency. He knew about the destruction and claims that he and other members were dismissed from the council after opposing logging inside the park. During a phone interview with Agent Green, Abran confirms that logging in parts of the park is illegal because no environmental permit has been issued since 2010: “Romsilva illegally exploited the forest in the national park. No ministerial order allows the logging.“

The National Environmental Guard specialists confirmed Abran’s allegations. After a survey scheduled this year, the Guard officials stated that logging plans did not have an environmental permit and Romsilva has to obey the regulations regarding the conservation and protection of nature inside the national park.

“Environmental Minister Gratiela Gavrilescu must act now! Romsilva is acting like the gravedigger of our precious natural forests. These forests are our pride and important for water, air, recreation and are crucial to the survival of many endangered species. Romsilva’s logging has become a national security threat. Thus Romsilva has to be dismissed from the management of protected areas immediately. Romania will hold the EU-presidency in 2019. The forest destruction shadow must be removed beforehand to avoid shaming our nation,” says Gabriel Paun, President of Agent Green.

“The logging tragedy in Romania has been watched and ignored by many key decision makers for way too long. This is Europe’s prime nature crisis. Climate change will increasingly affect our forests with droughts and wildfires, as we experienced already last summer. Therefore we need to preserve all remaining intact natural forests! A few weeks before the critical Katowice Climate Change Conference will take place we call on the EU and the world to look at Romania and become active!“

Agent Green and EuroNatur urge the Romanian Environmental Minister to immediately stop commercial logging in national parks, dismiss Romsilva from managing national parks and other protected areas, implement modern and nature conservation oriented management systems, provide adequate funds to properly manage protected areas (including Natura 2000 sites) and to compensate private land owners in protected areas for nature conservation objectives.

Today, a new petition was launched, addressing the Romanian Prime Minister, who will hold the Presidency of the EU-Council in the first half of 2019. The petition calls for immediate action to halt the destruction of Europe’s last large virgin forests in Romania. It will be delivered to the Romanian Government and forwarded to the European Commission and the European Parliament.

Here you can access the petition page.

The episodes #1, 2, and 3 of the “Out of Control” series can be viewed here.

Investigator Andrei Ciurcanu in wounded Calimani national park.
Devastation of protected nature in Romania’s Calimani national park.

Romania’s National Parks Deliberately Destroyed by State Forestry Managers

Investigative video footage reveals scandalous logging in Romania’s Cheile Nerei-Beusnita National Park

New video evidence published today by environmental NGOs Agent Green and EuroNatur Foundation clearly demonstrates that forest destruction in Romania’s Cheile Nerei-Beusnita National Park is comprehensively out of control. Logging of old growth forests is being deliberately driven by state forest enterprise Romsilva. At least 60 percent of the national park is being treated like a logging site, not as a protected area. Agent Green and EuroNatur Foundation call on the Romanian Ministry for Environment to immediately stop commercial logging in national parks and to dismiss Romsilva from managing protected areas.

Agent Green investigator and journalist Andrei Ciurcanu witnessed the scandalous logging in old forests, destruction of protected travertine-rock sites, inexcusable incompetence and ignorance of nature conservation responsibilities by national park staff, and pressure being applied from state foresters on national park managers and scientists in order to increase logging in the national park.

OUT OF CONTROL #ep3 Cheile-Nerei National Park from AGENT GREEN on Vimeo.

Romania hosts an estimated two thirds of the EU’s remaining primary forests. But huge tracts of logging are continuously destroying this important sanctuary of European natural heritage, even in national parks and EU Natura 2000 protection sites. Romania has been systematically ignoring international obligations like IUCN standards and many thousands of hectares of supposedly protected forests have been destroyed in the last 10 to 15 years. Today, large areas of national parks look like badly managed logging sites.

The major driver of this disaster for nature is apparantly Romania’s state forests enterprise Romsilva, which manages 12 of 13 national parks. All of them suffer from heavy logging pressure. It is clear that the Romanian Government turns a blind eye and tolerates enormous levels of commercial logging on more than 50% of the national park surface.

In the investigative video, the former national park director Stefan Dascalu admits that strong pressure was applied from the state forests administration to increase logging in the so called national park “buffer zones”. The planned strictly protected zone of the park was downsized to only 39 percent due to pressure from Romsilva in order to boost logging areas and volumes. Logging operations with large logs and heavy machines even damaged rare travertine formations, which are under protection by EU legislation. When confronted with the evidence, Romsilva foresters pretended to be badly informed and blamed the national park administration: “We do not know what is protected. It is not our job”, they said. The current national park director physically ran away from the investigation team and information requests regarding logging volumes were not answered.

“Logging in Romania’s national parks spreads like cancer. This scandal is out of control. The Government is doing nothing to protect our natural heritage. It is a national shame that Romania continues to destroy some of Europe’s most precious natural heritage“, Gabriel Paun, President of Agent Green said.

“The logging drama in Romania is currently the most pressing nature crisis in Europe, but still largely unseen. The EU Commission has to become immediately active and involved in order to stop the destruction. After the terrible forest fires in many areas of Europe this summer, the proper protection of our last intact natural forests has become even more important“, Gabriel Schwaderer, CEO from EuroNatur Foundation stated.

On April 26 Agent Green handed over 76,120 signatures from Romanian citizens to Environmental Minister and Vice Prime Minister Gratiela Gavrilescu, demanding an immediate logging ban in national parks. Unfortunately no action has taken place.

Agent Green and EuroNatur urge the Romanian Environmental Minister to immediately stop commercial logging in national parks, dismiss Romsilva from managing national parks and other protected areas, implement modern and nature conservation oriented management systems, provide adequate funds to properly manage protected areas and to compensate private land owners in protected areas for nature conservation objectives.

The campaign initiative „Out of control“ exposes the environmental disaster that is the logging and loss of irreplaceable old growth forests in Romania’s national parks. Three new episodes showing the ongoing logging in primeval and old growth forests in Romania’s national parks will be published in the weeks to come.

Here you can view the previous “Out of Control” episodes about the alarming devastation of Romania’s Domogled – Valea Cernei and Semenic – Cheile Carasului national parks.

Protest action by Agent Green in Romania’s wounded Domogled national park