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Romania to Save Some of Europe’s Remaining Virgin Forests

Sep 15, 2016 05:34 AM EDT
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Romania races to save some of Europe’s remaining virgin forests through a new technology that would enable environmentalists and citizens to monitor threatened woodland.
(Photo : Mariya Chorna/Creative Commons/Flickr)

Romania is working on a new initiative to save the last of its untouched woodlands.

The Romanian government teamed up with Greenpeace and other environmental NGOs to help them map the threatened forests and add them to a new national database that will ensure federal protection. The national database will track the country's expansive forests and is expected to go online within the next six months.

A large number of Romania's virgin beech forests are candidates for UNESCOS's world heritage list, and could attract tourists, wilderness hikers and wildlife enthusiasts.

"Virgin forests were preserved on valley bottoms, rocky areas, near alpine terrain," Valentin Salageanu, Greenpeace forest campaign coordinator for Central and Eastern Europe, told Reuters.

"They are forests that were hard to reach, maybe that is why they were saved."

Legal and illegal logging have destroyed some of Romania's forests during the past 10 years, Salageanu said, and corruption is also partly to blame. He added that about half of the 250,000 hectares of forest had been destroyed since 2005.

Because of this the Romanian environment ministry had overhauled forest management, reinforced the roles of guards and imposed steep fines for illegal logging activities.

The ministry has also launched a mobile app called Forest Inspector, which enables citizens to monitor and track logging trucks. "This is super-important because I believe in the future it's only through this electronic monitoring that we can in fact reduce illegal logging," Cristiana Pasca Palmer, Romanian environment minister, said in the same statement.

Moreover, the ministry also provided funds to help small private forest owners protect their land, which is a legal requirement many forest owners could not afford.

In 2015, thousands of Romanians took to the streets to campaign against illegal logging activities, BBC reports. According to environmentalist groups, illegal logging had already inflicted a loss of about $5.7 billion since the late 80s.

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