World Environment Day “celebrated” in Romania by abandoning four of its National Parks

In a leaked internal memo revealed today by AGENT GREEN, the Romanian National Forest Administration (Romsilva) plans to abandon four National and Natural Parks it currently manages because these areas are no longer considered economically viable.

Romania shelters Europe’s Last Intact Forest Landscape in Retezat Mountains. The continent’s largest slice of virgin forest, made of ancient beech trees, is also hidden in Romania’s Semenic National Park. “The landscape is a sample of how Europe used to look like 6000 years ago. The experience of walking through these marvelous forests is just like traveling back in time. Sadly it is managed by a logging entity, therefore in immediate danger”, said Gabriel Paun, President of AGENT GREEN NGO.

While the authorities in Romania are keen to celebrate World Environment Day (05.06.14) the environmental NGO AGENT GREEN released a press statement today following the leaked internal memo in which Romsilva argues that it has to abandon two National Parks and two Nature Parks because the state has lost the vast majority of forests and therefore can no longer make profits from the sale of wood.

Gabriel Paun, President of AGENT GREEN, said: “Romsilva puts the profit made from logging above nature conservation. This is terribly wrong. We are talking about forests sheltered in national parks, these are the last oasis of wilderness, often ancient forests. They represent less than 3% of the country. In this awkward situation we urge the Ministry of Environment to stop working with Romsilva and to create a new national management structure whose priority will be nature conservation and not logging.”

The protected natural areas referred to are Muntii Rodnei National Park, Defileul Jiului National Park, Putna Vrancea Natural Park and Cefa Natural Park. The internal memo from Romsilva comes as the vast majority of contracts held for the 23 protected areas expired as of 22nd May 2014. The parks administered by Romsilva have an aggregated area of 850,000 hectares, of which 68% is forest.

Following the collapse of the Communist regime, large areas of forests have been re-claimed by private owners, often illegally and therefore the State has lost a significant amount of protected forests. In the four disputed areas the State owns only 5% of the forests in the Rodna and Cefa Parks, 7% in the Putna Vrancea Park and 40% in Defileul Jiului Park.

“People think of national parks as nature’s sanctuary. But when they go there they see more and more chainsaws, trucks and stumps. The protected areas have their buffers zones within the park limits and they account for more than half of these parks in which forests are being chopped day and night. These buffer zones should be moved outside and around the Parks and logging of any kind should be permanently prohibited within protected areas ” concluded Gabriel Paun .

Currently the Ministry of Environment is drafting changes to Law OUG 57/2007 on protected areas. In the current version there are no restrictions for wood exploration companies, such as Romsilva, to manage protected areas. Furthermore the law fails to strengthen the internal protection of the parks; currently these parks have a buffer zone inside the park, not outside.

Photo credits: AGENT GREEN / Gabriel PAUN

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