Europe’s Wildest Forests: Fagaras
There are only a few places left in Europe where wilderness in its original form still can be found: Mountains and valleys without roads, even no trails – and primary forests. One of those places is the rugged Făgăraș Mountain range in the Romanian Carpathians, just southeast of Sibiu.
In July 2016 I was there – together with Slovak researcher Martin Mikolas and Romanian forest experts. We walked into the fascinating worlds of Ucea Mare, Arapselu, Boia Mică and Strambei valleys.
It’s a truly wild world: some valleys have no trails, only a few shepherds know the hidden and unmarked paths there. But also this paradise is under threat by rapidly spreading logging: large clearcuts – some are covering sizes beyond several hundreds of hectares – have been worked into the primeval forest like gigantic wounds. They are visible even from far distance in the plains which spread north of the steep and sudden mountains.
Făgăraș is one of the last strongholds of large wilderness in Romania and it hosts probably wildest valley in the heart of Europe: Boia Mică – a large and very remote corner of the mountains system with a large, untouched and almost inaccessible virgin forest. This wilderness ranks equally with famous primeval forest reserves such as Biogradska Gora (Montenegro), Perucica (Bosnia and Herzegovina) or Slătioara (Romania).
More than two thirds of Europe’s last old growth forests (outside Russia) have survived in Romania. But they are being destroyed in frightening pace… Do Romanias‘ wild forest remains have a chance? Will the calls for protection by NGOs and scientists win over the powerful logging lobby, with their mighty caterpillars and chainsaws?
Czech Professor Miroslaw Svoboda and forest researcher Martin Mikolas have been doing reserach in several location in Romanian virgin forests. While doing their work in the wild, deep forests they had to witness logging roads and chainsaws coming closer literally every day.
So they wrote a letter to the Romanian Government last autumn, urging for protection of their research sites and other precious forests. Finally, their proposed forest reserves have been at least included into the draft management plan of the Făgăraș Mountains Natura 2000 site recently. A first step.
However, Europe’s Natura 2000 program did not prevent logging at all in Romania. Even the opposite: Most of Romania’s Natura 2000 sites are hot spots of logging.
Even the great wilderness of Boia Mică could be gone soon: During my last visit in October 2016 we met an engineer who told us that he is just checking bedrock for road construction options. An rapid NGO-alert to the Romanian Government did not receive any reply yet.
Ucea Mare, Arpășelu, Boia Mică and many other paradise forests have to be registered according to national law and placed under permanent protection by being listed with the „National Catalogue of Virgin Forests“. As soon as possible. Otherwise they will also look like the clearcut in Ucea Mare. At the end everyone will agree that that is would not be a good idea. Nor for Romania – which would also lose an important touristic asset – nor for Europe or the global forest patrimony.