Tag Archives: Thomas Waitz

Thomas Waitz MEP and Agent Green witnessing illegal logging by Romanian state forests – video

Fact-finding trip by Thomas Waitz, MEP, with Agent Green reveals that illegal logging in Natura 2000 areas continues regardless of EU infringement proceedings
 
Thomas Waitz, Member of the European Parliament, and Gabriel Paun, President of Agent Green, are currently (October 10, 2020) on a field mission in Romania checking Natura 2000 sites for compliance with EU Natura 2000 legislation. In a video message, Gabriel Paun and Thomas Waitz reported that they witnessed destructive and illegal logging on locations that are theoretically protected by EU’s Natura 2000 legislation, including Domogled – Valea Cernei National Park.
 
In the Domogled – Valea Cernei National Park / Natura 2000 area, they even discovered logging by the state-owned forest company Romsilva on a state-owned property on which the Bucharest High Court suspended all logging permits earlier this year.
 
In other words: state-paid foresters are pushing forward cutting down of state-owned trees in a national park and Natura 2000 site despite the country’s Supreme Court suspending the forest management plans in the part of the very forest district.
 

At the same time, the European Commission is pursuing infringement proceedings against the Romanian state after EuroNatur, Client Earth and Agent Green filed complaints about the systematic destruction of forests in Romania’s Natura 2000 areas and illegal logging.

 
The fact that the logging continues even against High Court ruling unmasks the green washing by the romanian forest industry: forestry officials and industry-related professors have recently outbid each other claiming that the romanian forestry is doing better and acting more sustainable than the foresters in “the west”.
 
Thomas Waitz and Gabriel Paun did also trace a wood truck from the Natura 2000 Ținutul Pădurenilor site to the factory of Austrian chipboard company Kronospan in Sebes. The yard of Kronospan factory is filled with logs from large trees, mainly beech. Kronospan, the world’s largest chipboard producer, claims on the respective website: “We ensure that suppliers do not use wood from national parks, natural preserves, virgin forests and other conservation areas.” This is apparently in severe contradiction to the recent observations. 
 
More details you can view on this video:
 
The location of the primary platform where the illegal wood cut in Domogled National Park is loaded in despite the High Court / ICCJ suspended all logging permissions in the area.

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.