Another Romanian forest ranger was brutally murdered by illegal loggers, beaten and shot with his own weapon on October 16. He’s the second one killed this month and the 6th in the last years. In total, there were over 600 violent attacks on rangers and foresters protecting ”the Amazon of Europe”, a nickname given to old-growth Romanian forests by scientists and environmentalists. For every legally cut tree, there’s another one being stolen, but the Romanian authorities have weakened forest laws in recent years. It’s time to act to stop the destruction of the last primary forests of Europe!
Two thirds of all primary and old growth forests in Europe are still left untouched in Romania. Around 120.000 hectares of primary and old-growth forests and probably more than 300.000 hectares of old natural forests have been preserved through the centuries, some of them slowly developing since the last glaciation, 11.000 years ago. But the number is declining fast: a decade ago the surface of old-growth forests was double.
The wood mafia is ingrained on deep levels of the Romanian society, going down from politicians to foresters to poor people caught in this very lucrative business. The cause of the murders and thefts is the criminal network supported by millions of cubic meters of wood logged under the radar every year. The only solution to stop the violence is stopping the massacre of the forests for shady profit.
Romania has started implementing an automatic Wood Traceability System (SUMAL) in 2008, but it has been purposely disabled recently, making it a rather simple tool for illegal loggers to hide their theft with official, but falsified documents. The Forests Ministry stopped paying for satellite surveillance of the woodlands, wood transports are rarely monitored by GPS, there are no electronic registers at depots, and no surveillance cameras in key traffic points. The laws regulating wood logging have been weakened and there are still big cases of illegal logging left unsolved by the prosecutors. The Forest Guards and rangers are understaffed, poorly equipped, badly paid. Most of them just give up and join the grand theft, some for protecting their families, others for having a cut of the huge profits.
Automatic control and monitoring of the Romanian forests could eliminate most of the corruption mechanisms and neutralize the criminal networks that have infiltrated the Romanian society. This would also, most importantly, protect the rangers, the forest workers and the activists that are trying to save the last intact natural forests in Europe, which host an incredibly diverse wildlife and the last populations of rare carnivores in Europe.
Greenpeace Romania expresses solidarity with the mourning family and foresters and strongly demands action from the Romanian authorities and international monitoring institutions.