Romania's Trees Are Coveted, Sometimes Dangerously So

Loggers in Romania wage bloody campaign to secure the last of Europe's old-growth forests
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 20, 2022 3:10 PM CDT
Inside the Demise of Europe's Last Great Trees
Image provided by NGO Agent Green showing a wood deposit in Maramures mountains, Romania, on Aug.23, 2021. Environmental campaigners say EU member Romania has failed to heed legal warnings from Brussels urging it to put an end to illicit deforestation.   (Agent Green via AP)

Alexander Sammon's gripping piece on threats to one of the biggest remaining old-growth forests in the world—it's in Romania—for the New Republic begins with a disturbing story about logging thugs who smash a documentary film crew’s equipment and nearly kill an activist. It's even worse than that sounds. "The attackers were attempting to push the vehicle off the mountainside [with the activist in it], hoisting the chassis up on two wheels. When he agreed to get out, they bludgeoned him, stripped him naked, and posted photos of him online." A former foreign correspondent who now works as an environmental investigator echoes that: "I felt safer in Iraq, in Mosul, in 2016." Knowing all that, Sammon sets out to investigate the illegal logging there himself, assisted by a guide who had been documenting it for the European Commission.

Today, over half the lumber leaving Romania is illegally harvested. Sammon provides the backstory: While only 4% of EU forestland is still standing, Romania's forests were protected during its communist decades. That safeguarded much of its forests, whose wood is now in huge demand. When Romania joined the EU in 2007, it found "a massive, liberated market for the country’s cheap, abundant timber." IKEA, the single largest consumer of wood in the world, is singled out repeatedly throughout the report. It gets up to 10% of its wood from Romania and is the largest private landowner in the country. The report details a complex and corrupt landscape surrounding IKEA’s opaque global supply chain, and is absolutely worth a read in full, if only to sweat as Sammon recounts being chased by loggers while trying to both escape and retrieve a drone surveying the illegal activity. (More IKEA stories.)

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