In spruce forests such as the one documented in this case, excessive and illegal thinning resulted in relatively large gaps in the forest cover. Romanian forest experts explained that during storms, heavy winds can enter these gaps, knocking down trees and widening the gaps. Windfalls allow forest managers to approve so-called “accidental” permits to clear fallen trunks – but in many documented cases loggers cut nearby healthy standing timber as well. Over a short period, this steady degradation results in a full clearing of the forest area.
Romania’s Forest Inspector website shows that at least 60 truckloads of wood were transported from this area in the second half of 2017. As the Forest Inspector website fails to show the end destination for timber transports, it is nearly impossible to know where most of this wood ended up. However, EIA has confirmed through sources that wood from this site was bought by Schweighofer, despite the company’s claims not to source from Romania’s national parks.
Romania’s protected forests are under pressure from a steady demand for wood products, largely from foreign markets. Buyers must be particularly careful about where and how their wood is cut. In such a high-risk environment, full traceability is essential.
Romania’s Forest Inspector website represents a revolutionary step forward in providing a degree of transparency into Romanian timber sourcing. Companies buying logs or lumber can check Forest Inspector to see whether their shipment came from the forest it was meant to come from.
However, significant gaps still remain. The website does not show the destination of timber, nor links between forest harvest permits and timber transport permits. Critically, there are over 1,000 independent log yards scattered across Romania.
These so-called “depots” mix and sort logs according to species and quality, and cut logs into shorter logs to meet buyers’ demands. Without full traceability of logs through these depots, buyers are unable to identify the forest origin of their log purchases. Consequently, any company buying logs from such a depot is fully exposed to illegal and unsustainable harvesting practices – in violation of European law.
Although logging in national parks can be legal in Romania, Schweighofer has long maintained that they refuse wood from these sources. However, the company still relies on third-party log depots for between 30-50% of their log sourcing in Romania. This looming gap in its sourcing practices exposes it to large amounts of timber from both legal and illegal cutting in national parks.
In its 2016 report, FSC’s expert panel found “clear and convincing evidence” that Schweighofer had sourced illegal timber in Romania. The panel recommended that the FSC disassociate itself from Schweighofer – a recommendation the FSC’s Board of Directors eventually followed in February 2017. The primary condition set by the expert panel for an eventual re-association with Schweighofer was the company would have to ensure full traceability of its timber ”from the stand in the forest to mill gate including any timber that is purchased from third parties.” Schweighofer’s inability to do this for any of its sourcing from third-party depots, and its inability to trace wood from the loading site to the actual forest stand, make it far from fulfilling this basic and critical obligation.
Logging has been a mainstay of rural Romanian communities for centuries, and large parts of the country remain dependent on forests for their livelihoods – from timber extraction, for collection of mushrooms and other forest products, and from eco-tourism. The destructive logging witnessed by EIA in the Rodna Mountains National Park, both legal and illegal, threatens the future of Romania’s forest communities, and the economic stability of these rural economies.
Despite years of international public scrutiny and piles of evidence of its illegal sourcing, Schweighofer continues to:
- buy timber from forests that are illegally logged
- source from national parks, contrary to its own publicly declared policy
- source significant amounts of wood from third-party depots, where the company lacks control over the legality or traceability of these supplies.
Until Schweighofer implements actual traceability for its Romanian sourcing operations from the forest stand to the mill, the FSC must not allow the company to carry its logo.
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