Federation Coalition Natura 2000: Romanian Government threatens Protected Areas!

Worrying developments concerning the Romanian governments approach to manage the protected areas have come to our attention. We want to share the message from the ‘Federation Coalition Natura 2000’.

Please also read: Romania: Management of Protected Areas and Wild Rivers

Protected Areas balance protection and exploitation

More than twenty-five percent of Romania is designated as Protected Area. These Protected Areas include natural parks, Natura 2000 sites and other important places for natural development. Only a fraction of the country, about 1,2%, is strictly protected against extraction of natural resources. In the majority of Protected Areas, management aims to find a balance between protection and exploitation of local resources. Exploitation can sometimes lead to illegal activities that damage Protected areas even more, for example with sanitary logging.

An assessment of the National Agency of Protected Areas in Romania (ANANP) concluded that 530 of the 985 Romanian Protected Areas had so-called custodians. Custodians, mostly environmental NGOs, contributed their own funding or funding through projects to continue to protect the areas, following their legal obligations. It appeared that in many cases, governmental financial support was lacking however. The assessment showed that 60 different NGOs worked to steward 264 Protected Areas, which is about 1,6 million hectares together. According to the results of the assessment, Protected Area managers and custodians managed to meet their obligations in 94% of the cases.

Increasing pressures

Managers and custodians face the challenge to grant permits for activities in Protected Areas, which do not always align with the Protected Area’s interest. Projects to develop infrastructure, for example, can bring more tourism, but also open up the way for increased harmful activities, such as logging. There are thus projects that were delayed or stopped, because of the risks from environmental perspective. Even the ANANP assessment concluded that more state support is needed to lower the pressures on Protected Area managers.

Over-night change of legislation

On July 19th, the Romanian government accepted an ‘Emergency Governmental Ordinance’, which has major impacts to the future of Romanian Protected Areas. According to the press release, 166 prior custodians are now excluded from Protected Area management.

This means that Protected Areas, like the virgin forests, will not only lose managerial resources, but also a lot of expertise, knowledge and experience. The responsibility for Protected Area management lays now at the central public authority. The government adapts the changes shortly after the appointment of a new president of the ANANP. Going against the conclusion of ANANP’s assessment in 2017, the claim by Romanian NGOs is that the Romanian government main objective with this Emergency Governmental Ordinance is to facilitate new investments in the Protected Areas.

Original Statement by the Federal Coalition Natura 2000 Romania

On a global scale, funding for Protected Area management has always been a challenge. More and more, Protected Areas try to attract non-governmental partners. It seems that Romania takes a step in the other direction. The new Ordinance excludes many of those who invested in continued natural protection, while office based government employees take back responsibilities.

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