Tag Archives: Thomas Waitz

European Parliament: High Level Conference about Virgin Forests Crisis in Romania

Romania hosts the largest tracts of virgin forests within the EU. But they are vanishing due to industrial logging, corruption and corporate greed. However, this major nature tragedy is almost unknown in wider Europe. Therefore, EuroNatur Foundation and Romanian environmental organisation Agent Green organised an expert conference in the European Parliament in Brussels on the 8th November. The conference was hosted by Thomas Waitz and Benedek Jávor, both Member of the European Parliament.

Benedek Jávor opened the conference with the words: “Virgin forests have a special importance in Europe, not only for biodiversity but also for ecosystem services… In Romania they are under huge pressure not only from illegal logging, but also from legal logging. Deforestation is closely related to corruption issues and problems with governance. Low level of governance and high level of corruption contribute to legal and illegal logging.”

Thomas Waitz then also  gave a clear introduction: “I am a forester, I’m not against logging as such.” He had been in Romania in May 2018 upon invitation from EuroNatur and Agent Green. During this trip he also talked to corporations and found out that forest areas are massively overlogged. In national parks the non-core protected areas, so called buffer zones should not be larger than 25% of the area. In Domogled National Park, which he also visited, the buffer zone is bigger than 50%. Only a third of the park’s forests are under strict protection. “There are rules how forestry interventions should look like. As I am a professional, I could see what sort of interventions they did.” But “…they are not even applying their own weak rules.”

Gabriel Paun, president of the NGO Agent Green, also pointed out, that the deliberate destruction of virgin forests and Natura 2000 sites is happening with support of the Romanian government. In 14 years only 10% of the mapped virgin forests (Pin Matra study in 2004) have been put into the National Catalogue of Virgin Forests.

Gabriel Schwaderer, CEO of EuroNatur Foundation agreed that something is going wrong in Romania: “We consider this (National Catalogue) as a great tool… But we are wondering if it´s applied in the right way. And to be frank with you, sometimes I have the feeling that it´s not used really to protect those forests legally. But it´s is rather used to exclude as much as possible from it. And I have the question why only 21,000ha are inscribed in it, so many years after adopting this ministerial order” (in 2012).

Paun also said: “We put much hope after seeing the Bialowieza case that the EU will find ways to have a strong intervention to help save what´s left of our forests, which are also a European treasure.”

Humberto Delgado Rosa / EU-Commission: “Reports are unsettling, shocking and outrageous”

His hope will be supported as Humberto Delgado Rosa, Director of Natural Capital with DG Environment of the European Commission said: “You can see my presence as the proof that we do pay attention to this.” The reports by NGOs and media about logging of Romanian forests are “definitely a reason for EU concern. We do pay attention to his… We will monitor the situation as we did in Bialowieza. And we do have some new tools to monitor it better, including satellite technology…”

He stressed that “the reports by NGOs, the images and the presented documentaries about logging in Romania are unsettling, shocking and outrageous. He also made it clear that “all old growth forests” in Europe “require a non-intervention approach”.

With Natura 2000 sites there is a need for “better implementation…But the enforcement remains a challenge.” For the EU infringement procedure “We need some data gathering and we need to have some evidence that convinces us internally in the Commission.”

Sadly, Thomas Waitz added that the Romanian MEPs were invited to the conference, but none showed up: “as you can see… there is no Romanian MEP in the room. So it seems to be either a hurtful topic for them or they don´t care…”

Romanian EU-presidency: spotlight in the case

Gabriel Schwaderer concluded: “The Romanian virgin forests are vanishing while we speak. It´s a key European matter, thus EU involvement is crucial. The Romanian EU-presidency in 2019 will also give a spotlight on this case. We call on EU institutions to help and push to save this treasure. We see clear evidence of systematic violation of nature directives and call on EU institutions to act. He informed the audience that IUCN is also looking more deeply into the situation in Romania.

 

Raising the Alarm for Romanian Forests from AGENT GREEN on Vimeo.

MEP Benedek Jávor opening the conference…
Humberto Delgado Rosa, MEP Thomas Waitz, Gabriel Schwaderer and Gabriel Paun at the Conference about Virgin Forests in Romania
Humberto Delgado Rosan and MEP Thomas Waitz
Interested audience at the EP Conference about Virgin Forests in Romania

 

Forest destruction in Romania: EU-Fact-Finding Mission und Anti-Mafia-Raid

National Park Director from State Forestry Romsilva: “The forest itself wants to be cut down”

In the early morning of May 30, 2018, officials of the Romanian anti-mafia prosecution office DIICOT began a large-scale investigation against illegal practices in the wood industry in Romania. The DIICOT press release announces: “Public prosecutors of the Directorate for the Investigation of Organized Crime and Terrorism have together with police officers within the Public Order Department and the Department of Economic Crime conducted 23 house searches in five districts of the country and in Bucharest.” The press release speaks of a “destructive action by an organized criminal group” specializing in offenses of misappropriation of public wood and also auctions, tax evasion, unfair competition, deforestation and other offenses. “

There is a “reasonable suspicion” that since 2011, several individuals have formed an organized criminal group whose members are abusing public auctions organized at the level of forestry departments in order to procure significant additional quantities of wood for processing in sawmills. Furthermore, there is reasonable suspicion that some of the processed wood comes from illegal wood sources. The estimated damage amounts to more than 25 million euros, according to DIICOT. The members of the organized criminal group also benefited from the support of some officials. A number of people will be brought to the DIICOT headquarters for questioning. In the operation special units of the gendarmerie brigade “Vlad Tepes” (the civil name of “Count Dracula”) are also involved.

“The forest itself wants to be cut down”…

Primeval forest demand itself to be cut. Really? from AGENT GREEN on Vimeo.

EU Fact Finding mission and protest action in Domogled National Park

The investigation action by Romanian anti-mafia prosecutors took place four days after a publicly-acknowledged Fact Finding mission by MEP Thomas Waitz and a protest by activists from Agent Green in Domogled National Park (26 May 2018) which hosts large areas of primeval and old growth beech forest that has been affected heavily by aggressive logging. The ongoing destruction of high conservation forest stands in this national park is just one  example for the wide spread malfunction of official nature conservation in Romania.

The visit of Thomas Waitz and representatives of EuroNatur and Agent Green revealed dramatic forest destruction in the heart of the national park: cutting of ancient beech forests, oversized and erosion-promoting forest roads or soil devastation by tractor paths on steep slopes.

National Park Director Ioan Gaspar gave the remarkable statement in front of the camera on Saturday, May 26: “The forest itself wants to be cut down”. Romsilva manager Dragos Mihai, who is in charge of 12 out of 13 Romanian national parks, claimed on the spot – unswervingly of obvious deforestation – that there is no logging in old-growth forests in the national park. He also denied that the Romanian national parks are corresponding to the international standards of the world nature conservation organization IUCN and insisted that deforestation in the so-called buffer zone of the park was legal.

However, according to the IUCN rules, at least 75% of a national park must be strictly protected. Furthermore, the Romanian National Park Law (O.U.G. 57/2007) defines that the national parks must comply with the IUCN category II, which gives priority to protection of ecosystems and recreation. The National Park Administration is therefore required by law to exclude “any form of exploitation of natural resources and land use” that is incompatible with conservation objectives.

“A Romsilva manager admitted in conversation at the site that half of the national park is de facto no longer a national park because of loggin,,” the environmentalist and journalist Matthias Schickhofer reports, who participated in the mission for the EuroNatur Foundation. “All the state foresters and national park employees present have hardly lost a sentence on the protection of ecosystems during the entire visit. Obviously, they are only concerned about the highest possible revenue from the use of wood. But logging in national parks is in severe conflict with existing laws. The forest destruction in Domogled National Park is only the tip of the iceberg: The large-scale action of the special authorities against criminal structures in Romanian timber industry proves that there is a systemic problem. Romania urgently needs a fundamental turnaround in the forest industry“.

Logging in old beech forests in Cernisoara-area at the heart of Domogled national park.
Intact primeval beech forest in Radoteasa valley, Cernisoara forest district in Domogled national park. According to a Romsilva manager an “expert” confirmed that this is not old growth forest…
Pathless wildnes in Radoteasa valley, Cernisoara area: Romsilva apparently wants to log this forest although it is located in the middle of the national park. However, the Director of Nature Conservation of Romsilva said, that this area could be incorporated potentially into the striclty protected core zone of the national park…
Sustainable forestry? No, former old growth forest in Domogled national park.
Oversized forest road in the old beech forest in the heart of the Domogled National Park. Here, apparently whole old trees were teared down into the valley …
MEP Thomas Waitz, organic farmer and forest owner from Austria, counts the annual rings of an ancient beech tree near the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Iauna Craiova” in the Domogled National Park. A new UNESCO World Heritage program has been set up in 2017 protecting the last European beech forests. In the list are, among others, also some stands in Romania. Nevertheless, in the Domogled National Park old growth beech forests are beeing logged that border the UNESCO area and that are largely identical to forests in the UNESCO protected area…
UNESCO beech forest reserve Iauna Craiova in Domogled National Park. The logged national park areas outside the reserve have likely once looked like this.

Protest action: Romania, stop logging national parks!

Protest action in wilderness of Domogled National Park exposes Europe’s biggest environmental crisis

On Saturday May 26th, 25 activists from different regions in Romania raised protest against the ongoing destruction of primeval forests in the middle of Domogled – Valea Cernei National Park. They presented hand banners and unfolded two large banners measuring 100 m2 each from the edge of steep cliffs with the message “Romania: Stop Logging National Parks” (in both English and Romanian languages). The aim of the action was to raise international attention on the widely unknown fact that primeval and old growth forests are being deliberately degraded and destroyed in Romania’s national parks. This is the biggest natural destruction crisis in Europe today.Romania hosts the biggest share of the EU’s primeval and natural forests remains.

The activists confronted managers of Romania’s state forestry enterprise, Romsilva, which manages 12 Romanian national parks, with an urgent call to immediately halt logging and to comply with international standards in Domogled and all the other national parks. Members of the Romanian and the European Parliament, Senator Mihai Gotiu and MEP Thomas Waitz, were witnesses of the action. MEP Thomas Waitz conducted a fact-finding mission in Domogled National Park at the end of last week at the invitation of environmental NGOs EuroNatur and Agent Green.

At least 382.000 m3 of wood have been commercially cut from national parks in the last year alone according to SUMAL, Romania’s central database for forests and logging. Domogled National Park is Romania’s largest national park and was the most affected by logging in the past 10 years. At least 123.000 tons of wood were logged in this park alone in the past year. Less than 50% of its forests have been included in the strictly protected nature zone. Commercially motivated logging, conducted by professional logging companies, is omnipresent. Although they are located in the very heart of the national park, over the past 15 years, large areas of untouched forests have been cut. Romsilva had approved the logging of numerous old stands. In spring 2017 logging in the last untouched valleys in Cernisoara forest department within the Domogled National Park was commenced.

“The Environmental Ministry still has no answer to people’s wish and scientists calls to preserve the highly valuable forest treasures inRomania’s national parks. Although these forests cover just 1% of the country’s surface, they mean the world to thousands of different, and mostly threatened, species and they are home to Europe’s last large primeval forests and brown bears, wolves and lynx. Political talks have failed, so we have to raise our voices here at the site of destruction, in the wounded forests, to alert both the public and European institutions”, said Gabriel Paun, founder of Agent Green.The forthcoming drama of destruction of Cernisoara primeval forest highlights the systemic malfunction of Romania’s national park management.The valleys of Cernisoaradepartment werethe last large valleysthat remained untouched till last year when 1367 hectares of primeval forests were eliminated from the UNESCO World Heritage nomination list, only to be left open to logging. Two plots of old forest in Cernisoara were degraded in 2017, two more are planned to be logged this summer.

“Ancient trees in the wild valleys behind these banners are already marked for logging. All Romanian National Parks are also designated as European Natura 2000 sites. Deterioration and degradation of natural stands is meant to be prohibited according to the EU’s NatureDirectives. Numerous biodiversity rich forests in Romania’s national parks are not protected at all, as the so called ‚buffer zones‘‚ do not differ at all from ordinary intensive forestry areas outside national parks. National parks are not there to enhance the economy of Romania’s state forest enterprise but rather to comply with international conservation standards and the Romanian national park law. Romania’s old growth forests do not need ‚sanitary logging‘, but sanitation for the conservation of natural forests. The natural forest drama in Romania by far exceeds the size of logging in Polands Bialowieza forest. We call on the EU Commission to take urgent action to prevent further violations of EU legislation”, said Matthias Schickhofer, senior advisor at international Foundation EuroNatur.

Currently, none of the 13 national parks meet the IUCN recommendations and Romania has no road map to achieve this. On the contrary, the surface of non-intervention zones was reduced significantly in a number of national parks.

[1] “This trend is terrifying. Not just Romania, but the whole EU is losing extremely valuable natural treasures. If in Europe, we all fail to stop this drama, most of our last paradise forests will be gone soon. And forever”, Paun concluded.

EuroNatur and Agent Green respectfully call on the Romanian Government to:

  1. Immediately place a moratorium on logging of potential old growth and primeval forests in all national parks, in particular on state property.
  2. Introduce IUCN compatible national park regimes and management plans by 2025, especially ensuring at least 75% non-intervention areas.
  3. Ensure sufficient funding for national parks from the State budget as well as independent and professional national park administrations.
  4. Restructure scientific councils of all national parks to be formed solely of independent expert scientists with a responsibility to ensure conservation of national parks.
  5. Ensure local communities in the national parks are adequately identified and private land owners compensated.

 

MEP Thomas Waitz and Gabriel Paun (President Agent Green) at the protest action in Cernisoara forest district, in upper Cerna valley. Only 50% of Donmogled National Park are protected, the rest is treated like an area outside the park. In 2017 state forestry Romsilva approved logging in wild valleys in Cernisoara district with highly valuable old growth forest.