Murders in Romania's virgin forests shock public opinion

EuroNatur and Agent Green: Romania must intensify fight against mafia and corruption in forestry sector

With huge harvesting machines the wood is taken from the Romanian forests. The structures behind them are often mafia style. © Matthias Schickhofer/EuroNatur

Forest crimes and violence against authorities and conservationists are on the rise in Romania. The latest incidents of two forest rangers being killed by thugs within just four weeks draw 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 and the NGO 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 want 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 temperate 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, executive director of EuroNatur 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.

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