Destruction of Romania’s natural forests: Environmental groups pursue new legal action against Romanian authorities

Environmental organisations EuroNatur, Agent Green and ClientEarth have revealed the catastrophic scale of illegal logging of old-growth and primary forests in Romania’s protected areas in a new complaint submitted to the European Commission.

Wilderness in the mountains of Făgăraș

© Agent Green

The destruction of nature is also far advanced in this Natura 2000 site: In many areas, the landscape is characterized by bare hillsides.

© Agent Green

Only the stumps of once mighty beeches remain after the clear-cutting, as here in Domogled.

© Matthias Schickhofer/EuroNatur

The three organisations EuroNatur, Agent Green and ClientEarth have today submitted a complaint against Romanian authorities stating that the government’s lack of action to address extensive logging of virgin forests within protected areas is leading to irreversible loss of unique habitats and species.

Romania hosts two-thirds of EU’s remaining primary and old-growth forests of the temperate climate zone. These precious ecosystems, protected by European law as Natura 2000 sites, are being systematically destroyed by large-scale logging operations. 

ClientEarth wildlife and habitats lawyer Ewelina Tylec-Bakalarz said: “Intensive logging, conducted or approved by Romania’s state forestry, Romsilva, has caused serious deterioration of habitats and species protected under EU Nature Directives. Logging continues to be an ongoing threat to Europe’s most unique ecosystems and a striking violation of EU law.”

The legal action follows two previous complaints which led to the European Commission launching infringement proceedings against Romanian authorities over their systemic and continuous failure to protect one of Europe’s last natural forests.

Gabriel Schwaderer, Executive Director of EuroNatur said: “Our current complaint provides the European Commission with new evidence proving that illegal logging is causing a profound environmental crisis affecting many protected areas in Romania. We hope that it will allow the Commission to intervene sooner, because now might be our last chance to take action before damage of these unique ecosystems becomes irreversible.”

The evidence obtained by the environmental groups reveals the devastating impact of logging protected forests. In Natura 2000 sites in Făgăraș and Domogled, the majority of analysed habitats showed severe signs of deterioration. In the Natura 2000 site in Maramures the researchers have documented over 10,000 hectares of clear-cuts.

Veronica Tulpan of Agent Green said: “There are whole mountains where the forest habitat has been completely removed and all of the wildlife along with it. We need a rapid intervention from the European Commission to start applying the nature directives in Romania properly.”

Tylec-Bakalarz concluded: “The situation in Romanian forests is dire, but the case taken to protect Poland’s Bialowieza Forest gives us hope. It proved how effective European law can be in safeguarding of our continent’s natural wonders.”

 

Background information:

  • The PRIMOFARO inventory (Primary and Old Growth Forest Areas of Romania), an analysis by EuroNatur and Agent Green, reveals that forest destruction is progressing quickly.
  • Romania still has more than 525,000 hectares of potential old-growth and primary forests, which is more than any other EU member state (outside Scandinavia).
  • Around 300,000 hectares of these valuable woods are listed as Natura 2000 sites. Many protected animals such as large carnivores, black stork, owls, woodpeckers, bats and beetles depend on them for survival.
  • Despite efforts by Romanian civil society groups to stop illegal logging, the situation in Romania has continued to deteriorate. The official national forest inventory shows that on top of 18 million m3 of legally harvested wood, another 8.8 million m3 of forest resources were extracted annually between 2009 and 2013 and increased to 20.6 million m3 annually between 2014 and 2018.
  • The campaign “SaveParadiseForests“ aims at protecting the most valuable old-growth forests of the Carpathians, particularly Romania. It is jointly coordinated and carried out by the NGOs EuroNatur (Germany) and Agent Green (Romania).

 

Resources:

Briefing paper on the complaint to the European Commission

Briefing paper on Natura 2000 areas: Fagaras, Maramures and Domogled

Further relevant videos: Primary forests, Maramures, Fagaras, The new episode of Out of Control

 

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