Tag Archives: protection

A snapshot of forests with great potential

The PRIMOFARO study: an assessment of Romania’s precious primary and old growth forests. A statement by EuroNatur foundation.

Some of the largest and most significant remaining tracts of the EU’s primary and old-growth forests are found in Romania. Many still exist because they are found in relatively inaccessible locations and have thus far avoided the impacts of human hands and modern development. These forests deserve strict protection on grounds of solid scientific data. Such forests are rare in the European Union, but they still do persist.

A contemporary debate is taking place in the EU that recognises the importance of non-intervention protection of intact natural ecosystems and is seeking consensus on targets for such protection. The Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD), in its post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework draft report is proposing strict non-intervention protection of 10% of the world’s land surface in the next decade. Romania has the unique potential to achieve this by actually protecting places that to this day maintain a continuum of intact natural values that have existed for many hundreds, if not thousands of years – its most intact primary and old-growth forests.

It follows that to do this, the location of these forests need to be comprehensively understood. For decades, debate over the existence, amount and location of Romania’s intact forests has raged. However, an ecologically informed scientific consensus has not yet been reached. One reason for this is that the thing that is being attempted to be measured is a moving target – Romania’s close to nature forests are being logged and degraded at a rapid rate, and the ability to reach this consensus is constrained as no national logging moratorium in contentious forest areas has ever been enacted. This must change.

Given this context, the PRIMOFARO study, published by EuroNatur in 2019, is a contemporary attempt to gain a snapshot of forests that have the greatest potential as primary and old growth forests. It identifies forests that potentially indicate a high level of naturalness in comparison to forests that have been relatively recently logged, degraded or managed. Expanding beyond the restrictive and ecologically compromised current Romanian definition of “virgin forests”, the PRIMOFARO study holistically assesses Romania’s forests from the perspective of biodiversity conservation commitments, including the CBD, the IUCN and the EU’s Nature Directives.

Limitations of the study, which are based on visual analysis of aerial photographs with a corresponding error rate, are described transparently in the report, and the study explicitly invites further ecological verification of its inventory.

The PRIMOFARO study, in recognition of national and international climate and biodiversity commitments, offers policy and decision makers a tool to assess and deliver on these commitments.

At EuroNatur, we and our supporters are proud of our ongoing commitment to the conservation of Romania’s magnificent forests. As such, we urge the Romanian government to take the following steps to ensure these forests are forever protected:

  • Ensure that government intervention, discourse and participation in the forest discussion in Romania is scientifically based, transparent and accountable
  • Immediately place a moratorium on all potential primary and old growth forests, including those forests identified in PRIMOFARO, and other scientific studies
  • Resource and facilitate a scientific verification of the conservation and environmental values of these forests in relation to national and international biodiversity and climate targets, goals and commitments
  • Increase the size of existing protected areas to incorporate all primary and old growth forests and ensure strict protection of these forests

 

Primary and old growth forests still exist in the Romanian Carpathians…
…but the loggings destroy the Paradise Forests.

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”…

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.