Shocking news this week from CNN as an indigenous leader who protected rainforest was murdered in Brasil. However, similar horrifying events take place here in Europe. Worrying news has come to our attention about the dangerous situations that Romanian rangers find themselves in. We did not verify the content but we believe it important enough to raise international awareness on this matter.
Please also read: Romanian National Parks victims of deforestation
Latest reporting from the BBC state that for the second time in just over a month a Romanian forest ranger died in the fight against illegal logging. This week the ranger Liviu Pop, father of three, was investigating a tip about illegal logging in the Maramures County, in Northern Romania, in the scenic zone called Lăpuș Country. When he did not return, his colleagues raised the alarm. The police found the body of the ranger, shot dead with a hunting rifle, in a forest gorge.
Silent violence escalates
According to the local media, the suspects are known, but they are not prosecuted, because the aunt of the main suspect is the chief prosecutor at the Public Prosecutors’ Office Attached to the Târgu Lăpuș Court. The chief prosecutor, Aurelia Muț, is known for protecting the logging mafia and the poachers for years.
The ranger was shot with his own gun. Just a few weeks ago, the police in Pașcani area found another dead ranger in the woods. The body showed signs of heavy violence, reportedly caused by an axe. There are three suspects for this case.
Romanian illegal logging practices have been going on for many years.
If we are to look at the border with Ukraine, the border of the European Union, this disastrous logging is a shame for EU. How is EU to promote environmental protection, forests protection, overseas, if it cannot protect the forests within EU itself? Local groups and initiatives try to stop the logging, which results in more violent situations.
The BBC article also mentions that, besides rangers, NGO members are attacked by the environmental mafia. Already four years ago, local villagers lead by a former policeman, Mihalache Bocea, which came to do “business” on the pristine valley of Râul Alb, attacked the head of the environmental NGO Agent Green and his companions, as seen in the video below. This took place close to Retezat National Park, where we find Retezat Wilderness and partner of the European Wilderness Network.
There is an even more discouraging parallel between the murder in Lapuș Country and the attack in Retezat Mountains. There is an open petition, asking for the murder case to be taken over by the General Prosecutors’ Office in Bucharest, in order to be proper, impartially, dealt with.
The petition has reached about 30 000 signatures, in just a few days. But the case in Retezat shows this might be just an illusion. Because the attack on Râul Alb Valley was immediately taken over by the General Prosecutor’s Office, just on grounds that the local Prosecutors’ Office in Hațeg town might protect the local logging/hydropower mafia. But now, after over four years, we see that the General Prosecutors’ Office is no better. The prosecutor first dealing with the case has retired, and the case was taken over by the prosecutor Mihai Eduard Ilie, the very prosecutor which disastrously instrumented the case of the Colectiv fire (fire which lead to the resignation of the Ponta cabinet). The case of the attack in Retezat is now brought to the Court and the civil society had a shocking surprise.
The leader of the gang of attackers has no charges against him! Instead, one of the people attacked, the driver of the car, which just tried to flee, to save his life and the life of the Austrian woman in the car, is accused of murder attempt! If a case of international notoriety, a case with videos showing what happened, a case in which even the prime minister publicly asked for the attackers to be prosecuted, can be turned upside down, imagine what can happen in the dozens of cases of simple rangers being attacked, with no images and no witnesses, in the middle of the forest.
Romanian illegal logging continues
Meanwhile, the logging rates in Romanian National Parks and other forest areas continue to be suspiciously high. There are many cases where ‘sanitary logging’ is used as an excuse to clear cut entire areas. Additionally, one of the bigger challenges at the moment is the demand of FSC-certified wood, which appears to have questionable origins.
This week, approximately 4000 people went to the streets in Bucharest to demonstrate against illegal logging and the dangerous situations that rangers find themselves in. If the matter is not properly addressed, we can expect the numbers to grow further, as the last old-growth forest of Romania continue to suffer under much pressure.