Tag Archives: Romsilva

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.


Report: Joint IUCN – EuroNatur field mission to Romanian national parks and UNESCO sites

Informal field trip to disputed logging sites in Romanian national parks…

On November 14 and 15, 2018, an informal IUCN field visit to Romania’s Domogled – Valea Cernei and Semeneic – Cheile Carasului national parks took place upon invitation by IUCN member organisation EuroNatur. The background for this excursion is the growing concern among scientists and civil society organisations about the rapidly proceeding loss of virgin and natural forest areas in Romania due to proceeding industrial logging.

Here you can read the report by EuroNatur.
(Attention: this is a long read…)

Romania hosts the largest share of virgin forest remains the temperate zone of Europe.

However, conservationists and scientists are increasingly concerned about the progess of logging: NGO’s such as EuroNatur and Agent Green have been alerting the Romanian government, the EU institutions and the public about this major European environmental crisis. They especially criticized the destruction of virgin and other high nature value forests in protected areas such as Natura 2000 sites and the buffer zones of national parks and the UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site to protect primary and old growth beech forests in Europe.

Romanian state forestry enterprise Romsilva, who is managing almost all Romanian national parks, have been countering critique regarding the logging operations with the argument, that this is legally backed and even required by forestry management plans. EuroNatur invited IUCN Europe Director Luc Bas to have a closer look at the very sites in Romanian national parks…

Day 1: Visit to Domogled national park

The field visit started in Domogled – Valea Cernei national park. Right in advance, before the trip the national park administration and Romsilva had been informed by a representative of the Romanian Wilderness Society that the IUCN Regional Director wants to visit Cernisoara natural forest (Radoteasa valley) and Iauna Craiova UNESCO World Heritage Site component part. In both sites, intense logging has been reported to impact natural beech forest stands.

Unfortunately, in the morning of November 14, neither a representative of the national park administration nor of Romsilva showed up at the agreed meeting point. This seems to have been a miscommunication but also the national park manager did not respond to phone calls to try to meet up either. So the excursion by IUCN and EuroNatur together with representatives of the NGOs Agent Green  and Altitudine had to be started without the officials.

On the way up the valley to Cernisoara forest the excursion participants passed the entrance of the valley leading up to Iauna Craiova UNESCO site. But the barrier was down and a forester guarding the gate refused to open it. 

Thus, the joint field mission by IUCN and EuroNatur could not visit logging sites in virgin and natural forests next to the UNESCO World Heritage core area…

Cernisoara production unit: lush natural forests and progressing logging

Later, also the road into Radoteasa valley in Cernisoara “production unit” was blocked by a barrier. Nobody was waiting there. So the group walked the logging road upstream. After a few kilometres they found a large, muddy logging depot polluted with diesel oil and huge piles with logs of old beech trees. A logging tractor was waiting for more timber to be teared downhill.

Romania / Domogled – Valea Cernei National Park: Fact finding trip with IUCN into wild Radoteasa valley in Cernisoara forest. In 2017, the remote valley in the middle of the national park was opened for logging by State forestry Romsilva. Today, the wild forest is partly damaged by roads and logging activities. According to the official management plan, most of  remaining natural forest in the lower section of the valley is to be logged stepwise in the years to come…

Radoteasa valley can be considered as an exceptional wild area, covered by natural beech forest of the same kind and structure like the forest included in the UNESCO site core zone a few kilometers away. Until 2017, no road led into the wild valley and its more than 1000 hectares of forest wilderness.

“Not enough dead wood”: exclusion of natural forests from protection in the national park. 

In discussion with Member of the EU Parliament Thomas Waitz (in May 2018 in Domogled national park) Romsilva representatives argued that the natural forest in Radoteasa area has been assessed by an (unnamned) expert who allegedly “did not find virgin forest there”. They said, there “is not enough dead wood”. Therefore the forest is not “virgin” and logging is justified.

However, neither IUCN guidelines nor Romanian law defines that only “virgin forests” should be protected in a national park. The excursion in November 2018 found large areas of natural beech forest with old tree individuals and dead wood. The still undisturbed and wild area is very large, a perfect situation for enlarging the non intervention zone of a national park. National parks are there to protect large natural ecosystems – regardless whether they are considered to be “virgin forest” (according to Romanian definition) or not.

Old growth forest in the national park auctioned for logging

Only a fraction of the  forest close to the tree line and a small fragment at the lower entrance are currently protected as part of the national park core zone. The rest is included in the buffer zone, which means that it will be logged sooner or later by „progressive cutting“ (=cutting all trees over a period of 10-15 years) or “conservation cutting” (= removal of trees to accelerate forest rejuvenation and increase income from wood harvest). At the end of the logging cycles, rarely any old tree will be left there. In autumn 2018, Romsilva published four forest parcels in forestry unit XI Cernisoara for logging in 2019 (2B, 25, 45B+C) on a website for auction. Two of them (45 B+C) have been put up for auction again in January 2019.

Progressive cutting threatens Radoteasa valley in Domogled – Valea Cernei national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site
Cernisoara forest wilderness in the middle of the national park. Green polygon: virgin forest mapped by WWF Romania; yellow polygons: forest parcels had been published on the website of Romsilva for auction (and logging) in autumn 2018 (from left to right: parcels nr. 25, 45 B + C and 2B).
Parcels 45 B and C have have been published by Romsilva for auction in January 2019.
Old growth beech forest with dead wood and ancient beech trees in parcel 45B: good for “conservation cutting” in 2019?
Historic CORONA-image (1968) proofs that the Radoteasa – Carbunele valley complex was covered by intact natural forest without any signs of previous logging.

Upstream of the logging depot Radoteasa valley is turning into a scenic, wild gorge with natural beech forest. The stream is leading up to forest parcel 25, which has been mapped by WWF Romania as “virgin forest”. The beech forest at the slopes appeared to be of natural structure and composition – with dead wood and large and old tree individuals. A member of the NGO Altitudine presented a map showing plans for a new logging road through the remote gorge to get access to parcel 25.

“Not enough dead wood”? Forest wilderness in Radoteasa valleyt. In autumn 2018, state forstry Romsilva published forest parcel 25 (in the wilderness upstream form this view) on their website for logging auction.
Wild gorge in Radoteasa valley. According to documents published by Romsilva in autumn 2018 a logging road shall be built here…

During another field mission in May 2018 with MEP Thomas Waitz Mr Dragos Mihai (Conservation Director Romsilva) has announced that the forest in Radoteasa valley „could be protected“ – eg. by including it into the core zone of the park. However, a few months later, Romsilva published four parcels in this area for logging auction… At the same time there is no progress regarding the announced improvements of protection.

At the entrance of the Radoteasa valley (close to road 66a) a small fraction of beech forest has been included in the national park’s core zone. This natural forest does not differ much from the forest upstream. It appears likely that the decision what to include in the core zone was not based upon strict scientific criteria.

Beech forest under strict protection in a core zone fragment at the entrance of Radoteasa valley – not differing from forest stands upstream which are planned to be logged. Obviously, the park’s zoning is not sufficiently based upon scientific criteria…
Domogled national park is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The core zone of the national park in the upper Cerna valley (northern section of the park) almost entirely consists of alpine meadows and pastures. Most of the forest in this part of the national park is considered to be production forest by Romsilva.

Two UNESCO World Heritage Site component parts – Iauna Craiova and Ciucevele Cernei – are located there, but lack any stringent connection by other protected areas or corridors. Romsilva pursues „progressive” cutting and “conservation” cutting there  which could lead to the complete liquidation of all natural forests stands in the buffer zone, if the management plan stays as it is now.

Logging of natural beech forests is already very close to the boundaries of the UNESCO World Natural Heritage component parts Iauna Craiova and Ciucevele Cernei (see images below).

Logging of old growth beech forest at the boundary of Iauna Craiova UNESCO World Heritage Site component part. The whole Domogled national park is designated as UNESCO site, but most of it is just considered as “buffer zone”. All old growth forests in the “buffer” will be logged progressively, according to the management plan.
Logging close to the UNESCO World Heritage Site component part “Iauna Craiova”.
Logging close to the UNESCO World Heritage Site component part “Ciucevele Cernei”.

20 years ago most of the side valleys of Cerna river were covered by large tracks of natural beech forest. Today, there is logging in all those valleys and large virgin and natural  forest areas have been compromised by intensive cutting.

The inclusion of Cernisoara (and neighboring Iovan) natural forest complexes into the national park’s core zone (and / or into the UNESCO core zone) would ensure protection of the remaining high nature value beech forest and safeguard proper biodiversity connectivity.

On the way back the barrier at the entrance of Iauna Craiova valley was still down and the forester was still guarding it. Unfortunately, Mr Dragos Mihai announced on the phone that a visit is not possible…

Cultural and natural heritage of Prisacina peasant land

In late afternoon, the next destination was the small and remote village Prisacina, which is located in the “buffer zone” of Domogled National Park. They villagers mainly live on subsistence: livestock and small scale farming. Some of the forests surrounding the hamlets – Prisacina, Inlet, Scacisoara and others – have been modestly used as a source for firewood (coppicing), others remained largely untouched until today due to the steepness of the slopes and gorges. In early 2018 Romsilva intended to build roads in this remote part of the national park and to start industrial logging.
Residents opposed these plans and civil society organisations collected more than 10.000 signatures. Finally, Romsilva decided to suspend the logging temporarily.

The landscape around these villages is an extraordinary example of an ancient peasant land with rich biodiversity and exceptional beauty. NGOs Altitude and Agent Green argue that the landscape should be protected as it is – including the traditional, small scale substistance agriculture by local peasants and wild forests patches out of use. Any industrial exploitation of resources should be banned permanently in the national park’s management plan. Development of modest nature tourism (such as hiking / trekking) could support  the local communities of the hamlets.

The hamlet of Prisacina in Domogled national park (image from May 2018). The ancient mixed cultural and nature landscape is of outstanding beauty and conservation value.
Day 2: Semenic – Cheile Carasului National Park

The second day was mainly spent within the Nature Reserve Cheile Carasului, which is embedded into the national park. Its conservation status and its boundaries are under dispute between Romsilva and Romanian conservationists. On this day, Romsilva did lead the excursion into the park.

Parcel 46 in production unit 10 is a mixed stand of beech forest including also patches of old growth beech forest with dead wood and different ages incl. ancient individuals. Here, Romsilva applies „conservation cutting“ which implies an average extraction of 5 cubic meters each year. Romsilva officials explained that they extract groups of old trees including „ugly trees“ to stimulate regeneration. On the long run all old trees will be removed and no habitat for dead wood bound species will be left in this part of the national park.

Old growth beech forest residual in forest parcel 46 in production unit 10. “Conservation cutting” will progressively result in removal of the old trees in the forest parcel.

A few kilometers away, in Toplita valley, Romsilva and park officials guided into an area with „progressive cutting“. This method results in a complete removal of all old trees over a period of 10 to 15 years. Usually three consecutive cuttings are pursued. At the end, the forest age will be minor and all „habitat trees” will be gone.

River crossing of a tractor road in Semenic national park. The improvised “bridge” seems recent and the tractor tracks through the bed of the forest stream are still visible. Crossing rivers with logging tractors is not legal.

However, in Toplita valley some old growth beech forest remnants and aged individuals are still in place. All of them were already marked for logging. During the field visit, workers were cutting large trees just a few 100 meters away.

Gabriel Schwaderer (CEO of EuroNatur Foundation) pointing at markings for logging on a very old beech tree in Toplita valley. The whole area is under manegement regime of “progressive cutting”, which means that all trees will be removed stepwise,  including old growth trees.
Semenic and Domogled National Park have been also designated as European Natura 2000 sites.

Under the provisions of the EU Habitat and Bird Directives degradation and deterioration of habitats have to be avoided and environmental checks have to be conducted before any „plan or project“ in implied, such as logging.

Mr Mihai explained that in those national parks no explicit Natura 2000 „appropriate assessments“ (environmental risk assessment under Natura 2000) were done. All environmental asseessments have been  included in the management plans of the national parks. He also admitted that in the (large) areas under „progressive cutting“ regime no further regulations to protect habitats or species are applied. In these parcels all forest is being cut step by step in the logging cycle as determined by the forest management plans, which is “legally binding”.


1. It seems that the state program to protect virgin and old-growth forests from logging („National Catalogue of Virgin Forests“) is not reaching desirable results: Mapping of forest stands is left almost exclusively left with volunteers such as NGOs. There are reports by NGOs that the Technical Commission in the Ministry for Water and Forests in charge of checking expert studies about virgin forests and including them into the „Catalogue“ has not followed up timely and thus leaving indicated areas for too long out of the catalogue.

Many studies seem to have been rejected, also because of procedural bureaucratic reasons. At the moment only 21.000 hectares are included in the Virgin Forest Catalogue. Expert studies about several 10.000 hectares have been submitted, but it is not clear what will happen to these in the near future. Thus, more immediate follow up by the government is necessary to secure protection of very valuable sites.

2. Romanian National Parks are largely not following IUCN guidelines with regard to the zoning concept. If management plans are in place, core zones in almost all cases are smaller than 75%, in many cases even smaller than 50 % of the total surface of national parks. There is no road map existing how to reach the 75 %-recommendation for non-intervention areas. As in almost all national parks high nature value sites are under immediate threat of deterioration or degradation (e.g. by intense logging), the enlargement of non-intervention zones, in particular to include old growth forests, should be considered as a matter of urgency.

3. In the large buffer zones of the Romanian national parks high nature value forests obviously clearly suffer from progressive and conservation cutting. The forestry practices in the buffer zones do not seem to differ from industrial logging sites outside the parks. These forms of industrial forest management do not comply with the primary conservation objectives of national parks, which have been established to preserve (among other objectives) large scale forest ecosystems.

4. The management of the national parks is with the state forestry enterprise Romsilva. In conversations during the fact finding mission managers showed a strong orientation towards conventional forest use and management principles.

5. Progressive and conservation cutting is also taking place in old growth forest stands in close vicinity of the core areas of the UNESCO World Heritage Site „Primeval and old growth beech forests of the Carpathians and other regions of Europe“. Romsilva seems not yet to have considered specific forest protection measures within buffer zones of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

6. According to the Operational guidelines of the World Heritage Convention (§ 180) logging could degrade the integrity of a World Heritage property: „Severe deterioration of the natural beauty or scientific value of the property, as by human settlement, construction of reservoirs which flood important parts of the property, industrial and agricultural development including use of pesticides and fertilizers, major public works, mining, pollution, logging, firewood collection, etc.“ – and : „Human encroachment on boundaries or in upstream areas which threaten the integrity of the property.“

7. The core zone component parts of the UNESCO World Heritage Site „Primeval and old growth beech forests of the Carpathians and other regions of Europe“ are increasingly isolated due to progressive logging and thus impair biodiversity connectivity and the ecological integrity of the site. Much of the forest located within the „buffer“ between the World Heritage core areas appears to be planned for logging in near to middle future if the management plans of Romsilva will be further implemented.

8. In the other valleys between the component parts „Iauna Craiova“ and „Ciucevele Cernei“ numerous old growth forest stands are still intact or only initially degraded (by first phase of thinning). The enlargement of the national parks core zone including all these high nature value forest stands in the several side valleys would ensure proper connectivity.

Huge pile of recently cut beech logs in Toplita valley, Semenic national park.
Notes for readers: background facts about Romania’s national parks

The national parks of Romania cover 317,000 hectares, which is the equivalent of 1.3% of the Romanian territory. Romania hosts approximately 7 Mio. hectares of forests (according to the latest National Forest Inventory).

All forests included into National Parks representing approximately 240,000 hectares, equivalent to 1 % of Romanian territory and about 3.5 % of Romanian forests. In the core zones of Romanian national parks approx. 120,000 ha are under strict protection including large areas of alpine grass- und rockland.

12 out of 13 National Parks are administered and financed (and therefore determined) by the state owned forestry enterprise Romsilva. The majority of the National Parks has been established after the year 1990 and all of them have been legally „declared“ in the years 2000 (Law Number 5 of March 6, 2000), 2004 (Government Decision No 2151) and 2005 (Government Decision Number 1581).

Zoning does not comply with IUCN guidelines: In the majority of national parks, core zones („special conservation zones“ which usually comprise: “zona de protectie stricta” and “zona de protectie integrale”) and „buffer zones“ (so called „sustainable use zones“, comprising: “zona de conservare durabila” and “zona de conservare durabila parcele limitrofa”) have been defined. Only one national park (Jiu Gorge) meets the IUCN target of 75% strict protection without interventions. All other national parks have „core zones“ with smaller perimeters, many even less than 50%.

IUCN definition of national parks (protected areas “Category II”): “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.” The “primary objective” is: “To protect natural biodiversity along with its underlying ecological structure and supporting environmental processes, and to promote education and recreation.” Economic activities should be limited to tourism and “subsistence resource use” by local communities, “in so far as these will not adversely affect the primary management objective”. 

IUCN  rule for 75% strict protection in place since 25 years: IUCN defined already back in 1992 (World Congress, Caracas) and published in “Guidelines for Protected Areas Management” (IUCN Commission on National Parks and Protected Areas with assistance of the World Conservation Monitoring Centre, 1994): ” At least three-quartes and preferebly more of the area (= national park; annotation) have to be managed for the primary purpose; and the management of the remaining area must not be in conflict with the primary purpose.“ This guideline is also applicable for national parks which have been developed earlier.

Facsimile of the IUCN “Guidelines for Protected Areas Management”, published in 1994.

Intensive resource extraction, such as large scale logging and removal of old growth forests, is obviously in conflict with the “primary objective” of protecting “natural biodiversity along with its underlying ecological structure and supporting environmental processes.”

However, Romsilva repeatedly claims, that the “75% rule” by IUCN was not known when the Romanian national parks were planned. At the moment, 25 years after the IUCN “Guidelines” were published, there is still no roadmap in place in Romania to comply the IUCN guidelines.

The Romanian national law on nature protection (O.U.G. 57/2007) states (not an official translation):
„The management of national parks ensures the maintenance of the physico-geographic framework in the natural state, the protection of ecosystems, the conservation of genetic resources and biological diversity under conditions of ecological stability, the prevention and exclusion of any form of exploitation of natural resources and land use incompatible with the assigned purpose. (…) Within the perimeter of national parks only traditional activities are practiced only by the communities in the area of the national park, traditional activities that will be regulated by the management plan. National parks correspond to IUCN category II ‚National park: protected area managed especially for the protection of ecosystems and recreation’.“

Buffer zones are logging zones: In the so called „buffer zones“ intense logging (with heavy machinery,  large scale logging infrastructure, big openings of the canopy, removal of large amounts of timber and stepwise complete liquidation of old growth tree stands) is frequently present on huge surfaces, as various reports of NGOs such as Agent Green and also scientists reveal.

The current exploitation of natural resources in Romania’s national parks is largely not „traditional activities” by local communities. Intense forest management is obviously mainly not persued by the „communities in the area of the national park“, but by commercial logging companies which are ususally based outside the national parks who also bring along their workers.

Radoteasa valley in Domogled – Valea Cernei national park (October 2017): A huge area of forest wilderness with an outstanding nature value which deserves comprehensive protection..

Data kept secret from Romanian forest inventory reveals a catastrophic level of illegal logging

Agent Green published shocking data from second forest inventory, which has been kept secret so far. According to official logging allowances in forest management plans, not more than 18 Mio cubic meters of timber can be cut legally per year.  But in reality more than 38 Mio cubic meters are being logged down, as the forest inventory shows. Every year. 
20.6 Mio cubic meters / year of timber exploited above the maximum allowed is “a shocking value of catastrophic size and an attack on both safety of the citizens of Romania and on biodiversity. Authorities have totally lost control of sustainable forest management”, Agent Green says.

This enormous amount of illegal cutting is also an acute threat to the most precious virgin forest heritage within the EU. If the level of logging is not being decreased immediately, many  of these outstanding forests will be liquidated soon…

Open Letter on the National Forestry Inventory and the level of illegal logging: Agent Green calls Romania’s President and Prime Minister to take action…

To: The Presidential Administration and the Government of Romania
To the attention of: Mr. Klaus Iohannis, President of Romania
To: The Government of Romania
To the attention of: Mrs. Viorica Dăncilă, Prime Minister of Romania

Toward: Mr. John Deneş, Minister of Waters and Forests
Mr. Augustin Lazar, Prosecutor General, Public Ministry, PICCJ
Victor Ciorbea, People’s Advocate
Angela Cristea, Head of the Representation of the European Commission in Romania

Bucharest, November 28, 2018

Dear Mr. President, Madam Prime Minister,

Agent Green, an Environmental NGO, is concerned about the results of the second cycle of the National Forestry Inventory (IFN), designed to analyze the entire forest vegetation in Romania (the national forest fund and forest vegetation outside the national forest fund) results that without any justification were delayed to be made public.

The results of the 2nd IFN, regarding the total volume of wood that was extracted annualy in Romania, have not been published, but the information that Agent Green obtained shows that illegal cuts have not diminished in recent years, but have increased significantly compared to the results of the first cycle of IFN and shows that the size of illegal logging has reached enormous, unprecedented industrial values.
Central, regional and local authorities have totally lost control of sustainable forest management.
According to Agent Green, the verifications made by specialists for the second IFN cycle, drawn up between 2013 and 2018, show that approximately 38.6 million cubic meters of wood were harvested annually.

Mr. President, according to the forest management plans, the maximum volume that can be harvested from Romania’s national forest fund is 18 million cubic meters per year. This means that an additional 20.6 million cubic meters per year  have been illegally exploited, and not 0.4 million cubic meters as publicly announced by the Ministry of Waters and Forests less than a year ago.

For 4  full years of IFN cycle II (2014-2017), 82.4 million m3 of wood (20.6 per year) would have been illegally cut. This volume of wood represents the equivalent of 242,352 hectares of completely razed hectares. In other words, a forest area equivalent to nearly half of the whole Brasov County, disappeared during 2013-2018.

20.6 million cubic meters of timber exploited above the maximum allowance is a shocking value of catastrophic size and an attack on the safety of the citizens of Romania and an attack on biodiversity. These numbers show vulnerability of both the state institutions with the right to control and law enforcement and the wood industry (superior exploitation and processing), an industrial branch that participates in the construction of Romania’s GDP. But especially this value (considering that much of the 20.6 million “disappeared” from the national forest fund and not outside of it) questions the national security and the Romanians’ right to a clean environment.

The selling of this illicit timber, on the black market without any documents , has caused immense damage, both financially and environmentally. A calculation, which took as reference the lowest price of 50 euros / cubic meter of firewood, Shows that the value of these illegal cuts is at least 4 billion euros in the last 4 years. This value is far from being the real one, as part of the extracted wood has been processed  and sold at much higher prices in the country and abroad.

From the data obtained by Agent Green investigators, IFN results show that the most affected region of these cuts is Moldova (over 8 million cubic meters), followed by Transylvania (about 6 million), Muntenia (over 4.5 million cubic meters) and other 2.1 in the rest of the regions.

The specialists who talked with Agent Green investigators and who participated in the data processing explained that according to the type of property, the 20.6 million cubic meters above the maximum allowable volume, affected the private entities forests, followed by the Territorial Administrative Units (city councils), followed by Historical Associations (Obsti, Composesorate) and the public property fund managed by Romsilva National Forestry Company. According to our information, the last two “entities” were almost equal in IFN reports, a dramatic reality, as the state property administrator Romsilva has always reported downward figures on illegal cuts.

Mr President, Prime Minister, we are particularly worried about the results of the IFN, which must be made public as soon as possible for specialists to be able to analyze this catastrophic figure of 38.6 million cubic meters harvested annually.
There are officials from state institutions who want these values ​​to never be made available to citizens, or the figures to be modified so that the disaster in the forests of the country is diminished by reducing or re-interpreting these data.
The results of the second IFN cycle are even more dramatic because the first cycle results of the National Forest Inventory has highlighted that annual illegal exploitation in 2008-2012 was 8.8 million cubic meters, a value 234% lower than the results of the 2nd IFN cycle.

The current situation proves that both national legislation and European legislation (EUTR and FLEGT) have been flagrantly violated.
We consider that the lack of a long-term strategy of the Romanian state regarding the sustainable management of this renewable resource, the weakness of state institutions with the right to control and law enforcement, but especially the level of corruption in key institutions are the main reasons for this disasters and huge damages to Romania’s forests and biodiversity.

We are addressing your Excellencies and the Supreme Council of Defense hoping that the necessary steps will be taken to stop the scourge that has systematically covered the country’s forests.
That is why we ask you to take the official steps necessary for the forthcoming publication of the results of the National Forestry Inventory regarding the disappearance of tens of millions of cubic meters of wood.

We also ask you to support the launch of an investigation by the Romanian General Prosecutor’s Office, in order to identify and sanction those responsible for this catastrophe – representatives of the Romanian state who have allowed our country to come to this unprecedented situation and those who have actually participated in the destruction of the forest fund and forests outside it.

We also advocate for strengthened legislation to tighten up punishments, enforce the law on forestry compliance and develop a medium and long-term strategy for sustainable forest resource management at national level. A strategy that strikes a balance between social and environmental principles.
Agent Green embraces the Romanian Academy’s vision for sustainable forest management in Romania and considers it imperative that future strategic objectives and actions take into account:

  • adapting forest management to the impacts of climate change and natural hazards
    increase the contribution of forests to the impacts of climate change and to different natural hazards
  • conserving biodiversity, aware of the truth that Romania is the owner of the most valuable natural forest patrimony in temperate Europe, including virgin and quasi-forest forests
  • compliance with the provisions of the forestry arrangements and limiting the volume of forest exploitation to the level of maximum 17 million cubic meters
  • emergency resolution of the major discordance between the present coverage of the country’s territory with forests (27%) and the optimal afforestation percentage (35-40%)

We urge the Ministry of Waters and Forests, the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Agriculture and Romsilva to start a large refforestation process at national level, in areas where illegal cuts have irreparably affected the environment and the quality of community life.

The development of the „Forest Inspector“ online system must be urgently unlocked. Functions that have been deleted or canceled must be reopened and active (exploring data older than 72 hours).

Control should also be extended to timber deposits, where the absence of an electronic register leads to the mixing of legal timber with the illegally exploited timber. The boundaries of all protected natural areas (Natura 2000 sites, national parks, nature reserves and natural monuments) should also be added.
We call for the development and operation of the SUMAL system, which is currently blocked at a rudimentary stage, the use of state-of-the-art technologies for the rapid calculation of wood volumes (scanners) and satellites that allow an analysis of the evolution of the forest fund.

We urgently call for the prohibition of forest exploitation in national parks (1,3% of the country’s surface) and the establishment of the new Ciucas, Făgăraş, Giumalău and Ţarcu national parks as a minimum concrete and applicable compensatory measure against illegally exploited forest areas.

We call for a restructuring of the entire forestry system in terms of establishing total forestry transparency, the way in which the traceability of the exploited timber is planned, approved, verified, exploited and ensured and the forestry employees are responsible protect and manage this resource irrespective of the type of property (state / private).
Romanian’s forests are not only a raw material resource for industry but, above all, they play an extremely important role in providing the environmental services that depend on the security and safety of the citizens of this country.

Mr. President, Prime Minister, Romania suffers the worst environmental crisis at European level, a situation that urgently requires your intervention and the CSAT.

With great esteem,
Chairman Agent Green
Gabriel Paun
Agent Green Investigation Director
Andrei Ciurcanu

Romania will take over the EU-Presidency on January 1st, 2019. The eyes will be on Romania. Here you can sign our urgent call to take action now.

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