Illegal logging: 340 hectares of woodland chopped down in Máramaros / Maramureș

100,000 cubic meters of wood have been chopped down in the Sighetu Marmaţiei Forest District, Máramaros/Maramureș County, according to the interim Minister of Environment, Costel Alexe. The minister says he has discovered the biggest illegal logging case in the country in the past five years.

The illegal logging has in fact been going on for the past eight years, but no one had heard or seen anything.

“During the weekend I had a work visit to Máramaros/Maramureș, a county which has seen the biggest illegal logging in Romania, with 110,000 cubic meters of illegally chopped-down wood identified by the forest rangers. Who knows how many [cubic meters of stolen wood] remain undiscovered? I would like to inform you that in the Sighetu Marmaţiei Forest District of Máramaros County, we have discovered possibly the country’s biggest illegal logging in five years,” Alexe told Romanian media in a press conference.

340 hectares of woodland have been chopped down, and 100,000 cubic meters of wood have been stolen,

he added. Loggers erased an entire forest, causing damage to the country of an estimated RON 12 million (~EUR 2.5 million). But the greatest damage has been caused to nature and the environment, Alexe said.

It’s impossible to understand how this woodland has disappeared overnight without anyone seeing or hearing anything. The citizens remained quiet, but so did the state authorities. Colleagues from the Kolozsvár/Cluj Forest Guard uncovered the matter, and the prosecutor has opened a case, the interim minister said.

Alexe’s discovery comes after a forest ranger in the same area was shot dead in the autumn of 2019. Liviu Pop was responding to a tip-off about illegal logging when a deadly bullet from a hunting rifle ended his life. Pop had three children, and he is thought to be the sixth ranger in recent years to pay with his life for checking out illegal logging cases.

Forests still cover some 7 million hectares, or almost one-third of Romania. More than 525,000 hectares are virgin primary forests — more than any other EU country outside Scandinavia.

A forest inventory commissioned by the government and leaked to the media last year showed that 20 million cubic meters of wood are cut illegally from the forests every year, while 19 million cubic meters are cut legally.

Author: István Fekete