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News 10 Jun 13

Romania Toughens Law to Protect Forests

Bucharest is bringing in new legislation and raising fines in an attempt to tackle the problem of illegal logging which has damaged some of the country's important forests.

Marian Chiriac
BIRN
Bucharest

Romania’s forests and environmental protection ministry has announced measures aimed at better protecting the country's forests, which have been hit by illegal logging.

The ministry last week presented a draft law proposing that the illegal chopping down of trees becomes a crime, with penalties to increase fivefold.

“In recent years we have witnessed the continous loss of many forests,” said environment minister Lucia Varga.

“As the government has to take urgent measures to protect them, we decided to toughen measures against illegal logging, including an increase in the penalties to be paid for such an infraction,” Varga said.

The average fine for illegal logging is currently around 10,000 lei (2,200 euro).

Over 280,000 hectares of forest in Romania have been lost or degraded by illegal loggers over the last decade, a recent study by the environmental group Greenpeace showed.

While the authorities admit that illegal logging is a problem, they maintain that they are working hard to curb it and even boast of some successes.

Official statistics claim that illegal logging has declined in recent years, but the government registered over 30,000 such cases between 2009 and 2011 alone.

Romania still has around 6.4 million hectares of forest and 120,000 people employed in the forestry sector.

The country has about 65 per cent of the virgin forests still remaining in Europe, outside Russia. They are mainly situated in the mountainous Carpathian region, but only 20 per cent of them are part of national parks and therefore protected by law.

Romania’s forests are also the last reserve for some of the rarest mammals in Europe, such as the brown bear and the lynx.

Before 1990, all of the country’s forests were state-owned, but by the end of 2010, the state owned only 66.3 per cent. Public ownership has since gone down further to 52.2 per cent.

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