Tag Archives: protection

EuroNatur and Agent Green: Romania must intensify fight against mafia and corruption in forestry sector

Forest crimes and violence against authorities and conservationists are on the rise in Romania. The latest incidents of where two forest rangers were killed by thugs within just four weeks draws a shocking picture of eroding law enforcement within the Romanian forest sector: Illegal logging and criminal practices including mafia style threats against authorities and NGO conservationists are a major problem. Therefore, EuroNatur Foundation and the Romanian environmental organisation Agent Green urge the incoming new government in Romania to massively step up the fight against illegal logging and corruption as a top priority.

Even official sources give evidence of wide spread criminal practices in the Romanian forest sector. According to leaked information from the still not fully published second National Forest Inventory, more than half of the 38 million cubic meters annual wood harvest in Romania are not based upon approved management plans. This large scale of unapproved logging implies that illegal practices combined with corruption are omnipresent in the whole country and on all levels of sector, from forest workers via police to high levels officials in Bucharest.

“We wish to express our deep condolences with the families of Raducu Gorcioaia and Liviu Pop. These tragic cases are only the tip of a huge iceberg of corruption, greedy logging, mafia style threats and crimes within the Romanian forestry sector. Europe needs to draw more attention on the destruction of (in the temperate Zone) Europe’s biggest natural forest treasure in Romania. This is Europe’s equivalent to the Amazon forest. Romania must become serious with its fight against mafia networks and corruption, in particular in the forestry sector,“ Gabriel Schwaderer, CEO of EuroNatur Foundation said.

„The spate of killings and attacks is outrageous. We are particularly angry and concerned about the apparent impunity of the killers. This things keep happening. We haven’t seen much effort from the Romanian authorities neither to stop illegal logging nor to protect forest defenders. State forest workers, journalists and NGOs all feel threatened. We call on the incoming new government to immediately ensure that the ‚Forest Inspector’ app is fully operational again and to pursue a concerted national police operation to tackle the forest mafia before Europe’s last great primary and old growth temperate forests are gone for ever,“ Gabriel Paun, president of the NGO Agent Green declared.

Gabriel Paun has been attacked himself several times by criminals in Romanian forests. Finally one case is going to court soon. „It took prosecutors four years and a half to prosecute the attackers. The attack was taped, there was video footage, there was plenty of proof, they knew the attackers. But these guys were always free, and I always feared for my life over these past years that they will find me and finish what they started,“ Gabriel Paun said.

Our heartfelt condolences go out to the families and friends of the victims. They lost their lifes while working for our environment and protecting Romania´s forests. We deeply hope that foresters and rangers in Romania – and anywhere else – will be able to work without such threats as they contribute to the conservation of our natural heritage.

 

 

Romania: New inventory reveals huge and threatened natural forest treasure

EuroNatur and Agent Green: Europe needs to do its homework and halt forest destruction in Romania

While Europe is shocked about the forest destruction in the Amazon, central Europe’s largest natural forests in Romania are vanishing due to logging. EuroNatur Foundation submitted a comprehensive inventory of the valuable forest stocks of Romania: PRIMOFARO (PRIMary and Old growth Forest Areas of Romania). 

The results are promising – and concerning: Romania still host more than 525.000 hectares of old growth and virgin forests, more than any other EU member state (outside Scandinavia). But the analysis also reveals that forest destruction moves ahead quickly.

At least on paper, two thirds – more than 330.000 hectares – of Romania’s natural and virgin forests are protected, because they are already part of the EU Natura 2000 network (which includes all national parks). But most of these forests lack any effective protection. Only 6 per cent of these forests have been listed with the Romanian „National Catalogue of Virgin Forests“so far. This programme grants protection only to those forests that comply with the strictest virgin forest criteria. Other natural forests are left without any protection. As a consequence, logging in Natura 2000 sites and national parks is omnipresent.

PRIMOFARO also shows that almost 50 percent of Romania’s virgin forests, which were identified in 2005 as part of a comprehensive inventory of virgin forests, are degraded or destroyed already.

„We intentionally looked beyond the narrow scope of ‚virgin forests’ and tried to identify high biological and climate value forests in Romania. Around 8percent of Romania’s forests are still in a very natural status. They are somehow the European equivalent of the Amazon forest. Thus they all deserve special protection,“ PRIMOFARO co-author Matthias Schickhofer underlines.

„Europe needs to act together to preserve the outstanding natural heritage of Romania. We expect that Romania respects international law and fully comply with Natura 2000 legislation: Natura 2000 protected natural forests on state property have to be protected by the governmental action immediately. Financial compensation, which must also be supported by the EU, is indispensable for private natural and virgin forest areas,“ Gabriel Schwaderer, Executive Director of EuroNatur Foundation says.

While the Romanian government kept conservationists busy with a bureaucratic burdens in conjunction with the ‚Virgin Forests Catalogue‘, 10.000s of hectares of natural forests in Natura 2000 sites and national parks were destroyed. EU legislation obliges us to protect all forests in good conservation status, not just a few virgin forest museums,“ Gabriel Paun, president of Agent Green explains.

EuroNatur Foundation and Agent Green call on the European Union and on Romania to take urgent action to save this „European equivalent of the Amazon natural forest“ and to ensure that Natura 2000 legislation is enforced in Romania. It was only on 10 September 2019 that EuroNatur, Agent Green and Client Earth submitted an EU complaint about systematic violations of EU forestry legislation by the Romanian state.

Background information

Link to the study: PRIMOFARO REPORT

The main results of the PRIMOFARO inventory:
– The analysis constitutes the biggest cluster of close-to-nature (old-growth and primary) forest in an EU country outside Scandinavia: 525,632 hectares of untouched or semi-natural forests, home to many strictly protected species.
– 332,844 hectares (63%) are located within Natura 2000 sites, 81,716 hectares of which are additionally protected as national parks. Even in these protected areas, natural forests are not safe from deforestation.
– However, only 116,589 hectares (or 55 percent) of the 2005 so called Pin Matra inventory still appear to be in an intact status.

Methodology of PRIMOFARO:
The PRIMOFARO digital map is based upon detailed visual analyses of satellite images, applying science based criteria to distinguish between natural forest stands and production forest. The analyses was calibrated by use of images of example areas and during several field visits (over the course of more than 2 years) and by data provision from partnering primary forest research projects (REMOTE project led by University of Prague and a forest mapping project led by Forsthochschule Rottenburg, financed by Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt).

The findings were validated during several field trips and by an evaluation of PRIMOFARO digital maps against historical CORONA satellite images. CORONA are espionage images created by the US Army in the 1960ties. Only 2% of the initial data sets showed signs of logging in the 1960ties (roads logging areas). These polygons were excluded from the PRIMOFARO digital map.

So far, the Romanian forest protection program („Virgin Forest Catalogue“) almost exclusively is focused at protection of „virgin forests“, which are defined by rather strict identification criteria, laid down in Ministerial Orders. These criteria have been applied in a very restrictive way and the registration process is scandalously slow.,

This leds to exclusion of numerous natural and virgin and even many virgin forests of international importance are still unprotected and acutely threatened by logging.. As a result, a large number of primary forests with international significance are not protected and are under threat of logging.

In addition, the EU Nature Directives do not restrict conservation obligations to „virgin“ forests only. The Habitats and the Birds Directives bind EU member states of ensure avoidance of deterioration and degradation of habitats in good conservation status. Romania widely fails or implements this EU legislation.
Primary forests and old growth forests

The PRIMOFARO inventory identifies “primary forests” (according to the Romanian definition), but also „old growth forests“ which were probably influenced by humans in a very extensive way or long time ago. Both, old growth and primary forests harbor rich biodiversity (like: hermit beetles, alpine longhorn beetles, bats, woodpeckers, owls, capercaillies, bears, lynxes, etc.) and capture large amounts of carbon.

Use of historical declassified satellite images (US Army, CORONA, 1060-ties) to validate the PRIMOFARO digital map.
Fagaras Mountains region – the biggest cluster of old growth and primary forests in Romania.
Many important primary forests in Romania still lack any protection. Like the wild valley of Boia Mica – one of Europe’s most outstanding wild wonders.

Protesting on the edge of Romania´s EU Presidency

Romania’s Presidency of the European Union has ended on the 30th of June. Tens of meetings with EU representatives have taken place all over Romania on a diversity of topics. But there was something crucial that was missing from each public agenda, especially from the environment meetings: the actual situation and a firm conservation plan for the last European virgin forests, located in Romania. Besides their impressive and unique biodiversity, their all-time inestimable value for the country and local communities and for climate security, these forests become a stringent priority. 

The six months have been used by Romanian activists as a full opportunity to reach officials who can make a difference for Romania’s precious natural heritage:

The first official environmental meeting took place in Timisoara where experts on climate change met to address issues, but unfortunately, they did not focus on the old-growth and virgin forests, which are, one of the best and most powerful weapon against climate change. 

The first protest, which took place in Timisoara, stopped before it started, being blocked by the police, despite the peaceful approach of the two activists who were wearing a double-head T-shirt with a clear cut and the message “Welcome to Romania.” This turned into a media story, as the action was fully legal, peaceful and justified. 

The next meeting was in Brasov, where all EU Directors on nature met in a hotel’s conference hall. Agent Green had reserved a room for a press conference on forests in the hotel as well but the room was denied one day before the conference. But for dedicated activists who care for their and the next generation’s future this is not a barrier. The conference did take place, but in the middle of the street, in front of the building. The action brought big media converage as the many journalist had the chance to face the EU directors with the true infromation they had just received from the activists outside. A similar action was done by Agent Green activists during a EU representatives Meeting in Bistrita.

The EU leaders meeting in Sibiu was preceded by an official public letter sent by Agent Green and EuroNatur to all the leaders – a call for help and intervention, referring to the latest IPBES Global Assessment on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services report. Unfortunately, only two answers were recieved. These were extremely appreciated, but the problem of Europe’s last virgin forests is a matter of continental interest and it is sad that, especially the environmental-related delegates, seam not to care. The rest of the 26 countries should be aware that they are also responsible for the natural heritage protection and that these are Europe’s last virgin forests and several thousands of years old.

Furthermore, the environment ministers met in Bucharest at the Palace of the Parliament. This time, the organization called for those whose future they are fighting for: the children. Special occasions require special measures: a huge collective painting event, where families and children were invited to paint the entire street from the front of the Palace of the Parliament. The painting had tremendous success among pedestriants, employees of the Parliament and internet users, having been photographed hundreds and hundreds of times.

Commissioner Vella’s press statement following the event was a light of hope that the efforts reached the goal: “The IPBES Global Assessment on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services session made this starkly clear.
Let’s be blunt: if we fail to alter the fate of biodiversity and ecosystem loss, achieving the Paris Agreement objectives and the Sustainable Development Goals is nothing more than an illusion…
We need to rapidly improve the implementation of existing policy instruments…The link between climate change and biodiversity loss is clearly on everyone’s radar.

Last but not least, the Meeting in Gura Humorului was dedicated exclusively to forests. All the forest directors in the EU met in Romania’s most forested area. Included in the agenda was a trip to a beautiful virgin forest. Agent Green requersted to accompany the trip to ensure that also the reality of many other forests in Romania would be presented, was denied. Therefore, the activists launched an online call for the public – send emails to the ministry in order to ask them to show transparency for such meetings. Hundreds of people responded and wrote to the ministry but still the meeting remained closed. So, the activists found out the trip area and managed to hand out newly released leaflets with data to the situation of Romanian forests to the Ministers. This data is extracted exclusively from official documents, which were deliberately omitted in a meeting that could prove essential for the future of the next generations.

Even after the Romanian EU presidency, Agent Green And EuroNatur together with activists, other NGOs and civil Society will continue to put pressure on the Romanian Government and the EU until the Romanian virgin forests are seariously protected.

by Alina Florescu

 

Action in Bistrita
Action in Brasov
Action in Bucharest: The dear in front of the parliament
Action in Bucharest: Children drawing to raise awarness to the ministers to take action to save their future
Action in Bucharest: Children drawing infron of the parliament