Tag Archives: wilderness

Success: Romanian High Court suspends logging plans in Domogled national park

Forest management plans for Domogled – Valea Cernei national park and Natura 2000 site ignore nature conservation laws

The Romanian High Court of Cassation and Justice suspended forest management plans of forest units Cernisoara, Baia de Arama, Balmes, Ivanu and Olanu in the upper sector of Domogled – Valea Cernei National Park, which is also under protection by EU Natura 2000 legislation. The trial was initiated by Agent Green to obtain the annulment of all forest management plans within the park territory, which are in severe contradiction to provisions from mandatory nature protection legislation such as EU’s Habitats and Birds Directives.

The entire national park has been designated as a Natura 2000 site and as a UNESCO World Heritage site (including a buffer zone). However, not even 50% of the forests in the park are under effective protection and have been included in the strictly protected core zone. The rest of the forest, including highly valuable primary and old growth beech forests, is vanishing progressively due to intensive logging.

State forests enterprise Romsilva is controlling the national park management and they have been issuing logging permissions for a large number of forest parcels in the buffer zone. Even old growth and primary beech forests have been sawed down with official papers.

Euronatur foundation and Agent Green welcome the court decision as a major milestone in their campaign to save the outstanding natural forest heritage of Romania. Only recently, the EU Commission has launched infringement procedures against the Romanian state, following a complaint by EuroNatur, Client Earth and Agent Green.

“Domogled National Park can for the first time since many years breath in peace,” Gabriel Paun from Agent Green said. “It’s just the beginning! Agent Green won the High Court of Cassation and Justice trial against the Ministry of Environment and state forests Romsilva. 19369.24 hectares of Domogled National Park – Cernea Valley can no longer be reached for logging as of today. Anyone who sees a wood truck coming out of UP is asked to immediately notify the police. Transportation would be 100% illegal. Any forestry work now means a forest offense and a violation of court decisions,” Paun added. 

The forest management plans for four production units was suspended and with it, all planned cuts. Another trial to achieve anullment of the forest management plans of the production units in lower Cerna valley is still underway and the court decision is awaited.

Agent Green and Euronatur call on the Romanian government to urgently take all necessary measures to ensure that Romsilva and the operating logging companies immediately leave the Domogled National Park and all logging operations will be stopped.

In a next step, the forest management plans have to be changed in a way to fully comply with both Natura 2000 legislation and IUCN Guidelines for Category 2 protected areas, national parks. This means, that commercial forest exploitation must be ended in the whole national park and all natural (old growth and primary) forest stands need to be included in the non intervention zone of the national park.

Furthermore, the non intervention zone fragments must be connected to ensure fullfilment of globally defined IUCN guidelines for national parks. IUCN wording about national parks: “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.”

In the interpretation of the protected area management categories for Europe (EUROPARC and IUCN, 2000), the IUCN guidelines clearly state that management of the IUCN protected category II should eliminate exploitation (of natural resources), including hunting and fishing, and that this is a duty of the authorities responsible for the management of the national park.

Brutal wounds in the paradise: Destructive logging road in unprotected Radoteasa valley – in the middle of Domogled national park.
Unprotected forest wilderness in Cernisoara production unit. Logging there is suspended for the time being – and must not return.


Does World Heritage Status provide protection to Romanian primeval forests?

EuroNatur and Agent Green welcome recognition of 24,000 hectares of primeval beech forests in Romania as World Heritage

Nonetheless: Destruction of old-growth forests in Romania is most pressing problem for nature conservation in Europe

Bucharest, Radolfzell. In a ground-breaking decision, the World Heritage Committee recognized about 24,000 hectares of primeval beech forests in Romania as World Natural Heritage, including them in the list of nature sites with an “outstanding universal value”. The internationally active nature conservation foundation EuroNatur and the Romanian NGO Agent Green compliment Romania on the international recognition of this very valuable part of Europe’s natural heritage.

With this decision, the existing World Heritage Site “Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and old beech forests of Germany” was supplemented by a further 63 beech forest areas in 10 countries with a total area of more than 58,000 hectares. The serial, transnational World Heritage Site is now called “Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe” and comprises a total of 78 areas with a plain of around 92,000 hectares in 12 countries.

However, recent reports on clear-cutting in buffer zones of several World Heritage sites in Romania, which received recognition only two weeks ago, are reason for grave concern. Most seriously affected is the World Heritage site “Domogled – Valea Cernei – Iauna Craiovei”. Agent Green very recently recorded massive logging particularly in the buffer zone of Iauna Craiovei and in the nearby primeval beech forest of Cernisoara. The old-growth beech forests, which have been cut down there, were no less valuable than those inside the World Heritage sites and are also part of the national park Domogled – Valea Cernei and of a Natura 2000 nature protection area.

Prof. Dr. Hans D. Knapp, member of EuroNatur’s presiding committee, is alarmed: “Europe’s last large-scale primeval beech forests are being devastated seemingly with the government’s consent. If logging in buffer zones and areas neighbouring the World Heritage beech forests is not halted immediately, we have to expect that the beech forests of Romania and thus the entire transnational World Heritage Site will soon be on the list of World Heritage in Danger. Destruction of old-growth forests in Romania is currently the most pressing problem for nature conservation in Europe.”

EuroNatur and Agent Green therefore urgently call on the Romanian government and particularly the minister responsible for forest conservation, Doina Pana, to improve protection of the beech forest World Natural Heritage, including all buffer zones, and all other primeval forests in Romania. On paper, all primeval forests are protected in Romania by law, while in reality they are being destroyed before the government’s eyes. This is also true for state-owned forests. About two thirds of the European Union’s primeval forests are located in Romania. Thus, the country has a special responsibility for this unique European natural heritage. EuroNatur and Agent Green call for an immediate moratorium on logging in state-owned old-growth forests.

Further, it is a mystery why the Romanian government so far makes no use of the funds which are available since the beginning of this year to compensate for non-utilization of primeval and old forests. More than 60 million EUR are at hand until the end of 2020 to financially compensate private forest owners who do not exploit ecologically valuable forests. According to recent communications by the Romanian government, only 6 % of the total sum will be spent in 2017. EuroNatur and Agent Green call on the Romanian government to immediately make use of the available funds to effectively recompense private owners of primeval forests.

Boia Mică valley in Făgăraș: Europe’s wildest mountain valley

Romanian NGO calls for better protection of Europe’s virgin forest „hot spot“ in Făgăraș Mountain Natura 2000 site

Radolfzell. There are only a few places left in Europe where wilderness in its original form still can be found: Mountains and valleys without roads, even no trails and primary forests. Făgăraș is one of the last strongholds of European large wilderness and it hosts probably the wildest valley in the heart of Europe: Boia Mică, a steep, remote valley with a large, untouched and almost inaccessible virgin forest.

The Romanian NGO Agent Green warns today that also this paradise could be destroyed rapidly. In the past years many primeval forests in the Făgăraș Mountains have been logged and thus are destroyed forever. Some clearcuts in the Natura 2000 site covering most parts of the Făgăraș Mountains spread over hundreds of hectares. The German EuroNatur Foundation and Agent Green call on the Romanian Government to halt logging of virgin forests in the Făgăraș Mountains and to establish a National Park, meeting the international IUCN criteria. Especially the outstanding Boia Mică valley deserves immediate action to prevent destruction.

“Boia Mică is located in the Natura 2000 site Făgăraș Mountains. According to European legislation it is already protected. But apparently the designation as Natura 2000 is not preventing logging as we have seen many negative examples and clear violation of the provisions of Natura 2000. The Romanian authorities urgently need to enforce nature protection in Făgăraș Mountains and in all Natura 2000 sites,” demands Gabriel Schwaderer, Executive Director of EuroNatur.

The upper part of Boia Mică is completely untouched, steep slopes and canyons prevented it so far from logging and hydro dam plans. However exploitation plans are already there. „Boia Mică is one of Europe’s prime wilderness places. This is definitely one of the largest and least accessible old-growth forests in Europe. I have seen most of Europe’s wild forests,“ photographer and book author Matthias Schickhofer says, „it is comparable to the most valuable sites such as Biogradska Gora national park (Montenegro), Perucica virgin forest ( Bosnia and Herzegowina) or Polands Biolowieza forest. It would be a disaster for whole Europe, if it would be destroyed.“

Martin Mikolas, a Slovak forest scientist working at the Department of Forest Ecology at University of Life Sciences in Prague, is doing research in Boia Mica since many years and says: „We found there probably the oldest beech tree in Romania, with more than 500 years! We measured 480 tree rings, but the tree was cored in height of one meter, and we did not get the centre of the tree because of rot. So the real age could be between 500-520 years. All together, we had 15 trees older than 400 years on 14 plots in Boia Mică, what is an incredible result. Our plots have been selected randomly.“

In July 2016 Martin Mikolas, Matthias Schickhofer and Romanian forest experts also visited other virgin forests sites in Fagaras such as Ucea Mare, Arpaselu and Strambei valley. The scientists confirm that all those forests are untouched and comply fully with the Romanian legal criteria for virgin forest protection. However, no one of them is officially registered as virgin forest and thus not protected properly according to the Romanian forest law yet. Logging roads have already reached their borders. Agent Green and EuroNatur urge the Romanian Government to take immediate action to save those wild places of European significance.

Fagaras Natura 2000 Site, Romania - July 2016: Ancient forest and logging in the southern Carpathians.
Great, pathless wilderness of Boia Mica.