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Geogaphica Timisiensis, vol. 16, nr.1 - 2, 2007 (pp.

5 - 28 ) ●



Departamentul de Geografie, Universitatea Leicester, University Road, Leiciester
Environmental Change Institute, Universitatea Oxford, Oxford OX1 3QY

Abstract. As with other branches of the Romanian economy forest management has experienced
substantial change since 1989 which the authors seek to evaluate as a significant chapter in the long
history of woodland management. The National Forest Administration now has an essentially
commercial mandate (which includes non-timber production: forest fruit and the tourism resources such
as hunting) with a reduced level of cutting and a programme of ecological reconstruction e.g. the
restoration of mixed woodlands. However while commercial pressures were relaxed in the early
transition years rural poverty problems resulted in considerable illegal cutting and now, in the context of
some resurgence in commercial activity, regulation of cutting continues to be problematic and
conservation programmes must face a continuing threat. Meanwhile woodland ownership has been
transformed by privatisation which has revived not only individual ownership (both smallholdings and
large estates) but also community holdings. Private forest districts are now being created and a varied
mix of attitudes is emerging as regards levels of local satisfaction with the new administrative and
ownership structures.

Rezumat. Pădurile României în tranziţie: noi priorităţi în management, conservare şi

proprietate. La fel ca alte ramuri ale economiei Româneşti managementul forestier a cunoscut
modificari substanţiale după 1989, într-un capitol important din lunga istorie a managementului
spaţiilor forestiere. Administarţia Naţională a Pădurilor dispune de un rol comercial important (care
include producţia de fructe de pădure şi vânătoarea) cu un nivel scăzut de al tăierilor şi un program
de restructurare ecologică, de exemplu Restructurarea padurilor mixte. Cu toate acestea, în primii ani
de tranziţie, când presiunile comerciale erau mai relaxate, nivelul de trai scăzut din mediul rural a
determinat masive tăieri ilegale, iar acum, în contextul unei resurgenţe în activităţile comerciale,
ţinerea sub control a tăierilor continuă să fie dificilă, iar programele de conservare trebuie sa facă faţă
unor presiuni permanente. In acelaşi timp, procesul de privatizare a revitalizat nu doar proprietatea
privată (atât cea de scară mică, cât şi cea de dimenisui mari), dar si proprietăţile comune. Sunt
înfiinţate districte forestiere private iar noile structuri administrative şi de proprietate generează păreri
extrem de variate în plan local.

Key words: Romanian economy forest management, transition, privatisation.

Cuvinte cheie: managementul economieie forestiere în România, tranziţie, privatizare.
6 ● Romania’s Forests under Transition


With a major stake in the Carpathian region of East Central Europe Romania’s
woodlands attract attention as a significant European resource which is also of some global
significance when the country’s silvicultural traditions are taken into account (Giurescu 1980).
But although there is a substantial literature available this is particularly appropriate time to
attempt a broad review since, like other branches of the economy, the forests have been subject
to quite radical restructuring since four decades of central planning came to an abrupt
conclusion with the revolution of December 1989. Although the forests were generally well-
managed under state ownership the last 15 years have seen Romanian silviculture adopting
European norms in the context of EU accession and the paper therefore explores trends in
wood production, marketing and conservation. However restitution is also an important issue
which has dominated he agenda and it is therefore appropriate to examine this highly contested
issue and profile the present ownership structure. Both the authors have studied the problems
at first hand with complementarity arising from in-depth research on the woodland restitution
process (Lawrence & Szabo 2005a; 2005b) combining with broader studies on the ecology and
economic restructuring (Turnock 1988; 1990; 2001).
Woodland occupies about 6.3mln.ha (27% of the total area of Romania) and the total
tree standing volume is estimated at (Istratescu et al. 2001). Almost 65% of the
forests are located in the horseshoe-shaped Carpathian mountain region at an altitude of
c.700m with rather less than 30% in the Subcarpathian hills and some eight percent are in the
plains where the woodland cover falls to 10% compared with a quarter in the Subcarpathians
and over a third in the high mountains. Production potential further exaggerates the disparity
with densities exceeding 1000cu.m/ha of wood mass in some Carpathian areas while the
upland areas contain most of the relatively valuable beechwood and resinous timber. Overall
broadleaved species account for 69% of the total forested area (of which beech represents 31%
and oak 19%) while conifers represent 31% of the total forested area, of which Norway spruce
accounts for 23% and silver fir five percent. The age structure tends to vary with accessibility:
22% of the forests are 1-20 years old; 37% are 21-60 years old; 25% are 61-100 years old;
and 16% are over 100 years old.


Forests have traditionally played an important role in Romania’s social and economic
development through the ages. However commercial pressure only became really strong when
the main line railways arrived and heavy felling occurred in the most accessible areas with a
particular interest in ‘resinous’/coniferous species. Government became a major woodland
owner following the secularization of churchlands in 1863 but although forest codes were
enacted in 1881 and 1910 (and state management was imposed on community properties
that lacked their own technical resources in 1898) exploitation was left to private interests –
often entering the country from adjacent Habsburg territories – that had the resources and
expertise to provide the necessary infrastructure. Clear felling became the norm and
environmental consequences were often serious, especially in Vrancea where some local
communities sold their woodlands and vulnerable hillsides were stripped bare (Muică &
Turnock 1993). The forests have continued to provide a major source of rural employment

and income from logging, wood processing and non-timber forest products industries, although
the opening-up the forests as a whole to sustainable levels of cutting – along with marketability
for all major species including beech - has been a very slow process and a succession of
transport technologies have been employed to reduce the area of inaccessible forests (Turnock
1990). There was a loss of some 1.3mln.ha of forest during the inter-war years, precipitated by
land reform although an act was promulgated in 1943 to restore woodland on degraded land as
at time of heavy cutting in aid of the Axis during World War Two (and a German-Romanian
joint company was active in exploitation). Fragmentation continued until nationalization in
1948 when a further effort at restocking took place. The separation of silviculture and
exploitation continued: the development of forests was the concern of Direcţia Regimului
Silvic (set up in 1930) while the state complemented private enterprise for the first time by
setting up its own Casa Autonomă a Pădurilor Statului.
The communist period endorsed high management standards among the
silviculturists, but high levels of cutting combined with delays in replanting, setbacks for
politically-inspired programmes of species change and heavy agricultural pressure resulted
in a declining woodland area (6.04-5.87mln.ha) during the 1960s. Accessibility improved
through forest road building (albeit at quite a low density by European standards) and older
transport systems involving the rivers, narrow-gauge railways and long-distance funiculars
were almost totally eclipsed. A stronger focus on conservation was evident after 1976 with a
return to a natural woodland structure (after problems with disease and die-back) and with
annual cutting restricted to - well below the estimated annual growth of 28mln -
there some increase in total area to 6.34mln.ha in 1980. During the 1980s control of grazing
by the forest districts (instead of the commune authorities) helped to reduce damage with
outright prohibition in some cases (Stoiculescu 1990). But even under nationalisation and
central planning logging was clearly separated from silviculture. In the later communist
years the ‘Inspectorat’, operating through a network of county organisations and district
offices (each known as an ‘Ocol Silvic’) was complemented by a ‘Centrul Exploatări
Lemnului’ (CEL) with regional organisations for cutting and transport each known as an
‘Intreprinderea Forestieră de Exploatare şi Transport’ (IFET).


After the revolution there was little immediate change as the old communist
organisation was reprofiled as an autonomous state administration (Romsilva) and then
restructured in 1996 as the National Forest Administration (NFA) subordinate to the Ministry
of Agriculture. Indeed the superficiality of much of the early reorganisation fitted what was
widely seen as a widely-mistrusted neo-communist phase. NFA now has an essentially
commercial mandate covering silviculture (ensuring that state forests contribute to the
improvement of the environment and ensure a steady supply of wood for the national
economy), as as well as NTFPs and a range of public service functions: e.g. administration and
management of protected forest areas including national parks. Also ‘Codul Silvic’ was revised
in 1996 introduced for long-term protection/rational exploitation with closer attention to the
environmental impact. Cutting was to be restricted to (reached in 1994)
after 23-24mln under communism; in the hope that an improving age distribution would ensure
continuity of production and allow an increase to 16-17mln by 2000-5. Although overcutting is
8 ● Romania’s Forests under Transition

still a problem, work has started on ecological reconstruction (Simionescu 1998; Stănescu
1996a) which includes restoration of mixed woodlands. According to changes made in 2001,
NFA may also lease or rent its assets; manage private or community owned forests on an
agreement basis; purchase privately-owned land for afforestation (or acceptance of donations);
undertake primary processing of wood and such non-timber forest products as fruits,
mushrooms and medicinal plants. Organisationally NFA now has a headquarters with four
directorates - dealing with the forest stock, technical matters, production (including hunting
and fishing) and economic issues, a Forest Research and Management Planning Institute
(ICAS), 36 county branches (with a mainly supervisory and monitoring role) as well as some
400 forest districts. Operating along the lines of profit centres, the latter vary in size from up to
6,000ha in the plains to over 20,000ha in the mountains regions where there is further division
into sub-districts each comprising around five forest ranges. This area-based structure is fairly
traditional within state-owned forest enterprises that do not operate on a truly commercial
mandate or in an open market environment. It is the districts that look after non-core activities
concerned with forest fruits and mushrooms, wickerwork, charcoal production and timber
processing which are not organised along business unit lines despite their significant
contribution to revenue and the NFA mandate to undertake these activities on a commercial

2.1 Commercialisation
In line with government pressure to commercialise its activities and privatise non-core
activities, NFA revenues rose in 2000 to $172.7mln (including $32mln from NTFPs) but the
accounting procedure makes it impossible to quantify and discriminate between costs and
benefits associated with the ‘public good’ and commercial functions. Timber pricing - average
floor price for auctions - is related to NFA costs (and agreed profit margins) rather than the
value of the wood and harvesting costs, whereas the system needs to reflect production costs
and market conditions. A review with FAO/World Bank assistance in 1992-3 led to a Forestry
Reform Strategy in 1995 (but with no discussion of an integrated approach or further
restitution) and Forest Code. In 1999 the World Bank extended its earlier work in anticipation
of further restitution leading to a policy and strategy in 2000 for sustainable development
through a new restitution phase: strengthening management capacity by both the NFA and
associations of private owners - including a national forest management information and
monitoring system and a programme for biodiversity conservation management - and building
public/stakeholder awareness of the need for sustainable harvesting. A new World Bank Forest
Development Project was approved for 2003-8 to implement the 2000 National Forest Policy
& Strategy, strengthen monitoring and supervision, maintain the remaining state forests, revise
timber pricing policy, improve forest roads and modernise wood processing. However with the
latest wave of woodland restitution (outlined below), which will reduce the state sector to some
3.0mln.ha, coupled with the decision in 1999 to transfer the state’s responsibility for overall
inspection to a separate organisation, NFA staffing levels have fallen sharply since 2001
(although redundant staff may be re-employed in private sector management or in the new
inspectorates). At the same time there is an important task in developing a credible forecasting
model to safeguard the wood processing industry, while also ensuring that new wood
processing units are steered towards areas where the appropriate surplus is available as well as
the requited workforce. Income is increasing: the value of forest products over the previous

five years (including processed timber) amounted to $905-1,050mln (some 11% of all
Romanian exports), and the sector’s contribution to GDP stands around 4.5%. However the
financial contribution could be greatly increased through competitive wood marketing and the
introduction of improved harvesting, processing, and manufacturing technologies.
Table 1 shows that the total forest area in plantations increased in the late 1980s and
despite a slight decline each year since 1992, the 2000 figure still exceeded that of 1987.
Meanwhile the area of coniferous forest has declined while the beechwoods have increased.
Planting levels fell sharply after 1990 with a modest revival in 1994 and again in 1999-2000.
The ratio of broadleaf to coniferous has fluctuated with broadleaf always more prominent but
exceeding twice the coniferous figure in 1988, 1989, 1994 and 1996. Higher planting targets
of 50-60,000ha/yr are thought necessary, with regeneration of low-yield forests (but there has
been some excessive emphasis on fast-growing species in the lowlands). Wood production has
also fallen but not to the same extent as planting: the decline has been progressive but with a
slight revival in 1995 and 1996 and again in 1999 and 2000. The decline has been greater for
beechwood than for coniferous timber, for the former exceeded the latter during 1987-9 but
has done so on no occasion since apart from 1992. The aim has been to boost coniferous trees
from an initial 28% to reach 40% of total stock in 2010 although this target seems unrealistic.
The ‘cut over’ area declined until 1998 but then increased sharply thereafter while the area of
clear-felling (by a single cut or several successive cuts) has also declined, albeit with a
fluctuating ratio: being relatively more prominent (over 33%) in 1987 and during 1992-7 and
over 20% additionally in 1991 and during 1998-2004.
Table 1 Forest area, planting and production 1987-2005
Year Forest Area Planting Wood Production AreaCut
‘000ha. ha. ‘000cu.m ‘000ha.
1987 6210 1923 1881 38290 14336 23954 23298 6516 6636 78.3 39.0
1988 6228 1921 1894 46450 13936 32514 19989 6784 7069 81.1 17.3
1989 6249 1926 1893 41409 13912 28497 19266 7272 8736 88.9 11.8
1990 6252 1929 1896 25489 9262 16227 16649 5813 4958 66.5 11.5
1991 6253 1930 1902 15832 6330 9502 15377 4956 4644 62.9 17.3
1992 6253 1926 1906 12556 5067 7489 14419 4418 4629 55.4 19.7
1993 6249 1916 1915 10346 4978 5368 13590 4564 4073 42.3 17.3
1994 6246 1913 1909 14744 4602 10142 12942 4285 4037 41.0 16.8
1995 6245 1903 1925 13117 4895 8222 13813 4973 4215 42.2 16.5
1996 6240 1890 1935 12727 4196 8531 14803 5751 4266 39.9 15.0
1997 6236 1883 1939 10641 3790 6851 14509 5836 4263 40.0 13.5
1998 6227 1868 1942 10567 4127 6480 12642 5195 3635 34.5 11.7
1999 6226 1861 1943 11863 4939 6924 13718 5564 4115 43.1 12.2
2000 6223 1856 1951 12701 5865 6836 14285 5346 4509 49.0 13.6
2001 6225 1853 1956 13539 6572 6967 13410 4915 4260 45.8 12.2
2002 6239 1856 1973 16448 6714 9734 16383 7166 4439 52.1 11.5
2003 6221 1839 1985 14772 4606 10166 16692 7139 4748 57.0 13.1
2004 6222 1852 1996 14100 4449 9651 17082 6357 5412 67.1 14.2
2005 6233 1873 2023 14389 5418 8971 15671 6061 4794 68.7 12.4
A Total; B Coniferous; C Beech; D All Broadleaf; E Area cut by clear-felling or by ‘successive
cutting’ (by which a parcel is completely cleared in three or four stages)
Source: Anuarul Statistic: Tables 14.17, 14.18, 14.19 and 14.20
10● Romania’s Forests under Transition

Wood production by region may be examined for the period from 1995 through data
published in ‘Anuarul Statistic’. Table 2 shows rising output averaging 2.07cu.m/ha in
1995, 2.21 in 2000 and 2.32 in 2005, but while the four northern regions (Centre, North
East, North West and West) contain the bulk of the Carpathian forests, it is the Centre and
North East - sharing the richest stands in the Eastern Carpathians – that deliver most wood
per unit of area: 2.7-3.2cu.m/ha which is well above the national average; while the North
West and West, along with the South West, fall consistently
below this level leaving the South and South East very close to the average. A more
detailed picture emerges from the county listing which reveals a cluster of counties in the
Eastern Carpathians – with extensive forests with a high proportion of coniferous trees -
with timber production exceeding 3.00cu.m/ha of forest in 2005: Bistriţa-Năsăud 3.07;
Covasna 3.30, Neamţ 3.69, Suceava 3.77 and Harghita 4.45. The top ten counties (by total
output) accounted for 52.7% of the national output in 2005 (51.5% in 2000 and 51.0% in
1995) and 51.5% in 2000. In 2000 (1995) the rankings were (in descending order):
Suceava, Harghita, Neamţ, Mureş, Bacău, Caraş-Severin, Maramureş, Argeş, Bistriţa-
Năsăud and Covasna with 2.96cu.m/ha overall. But Harghita rose to top place and Covasna
to fifth place in 1995 (at a time of heavy windblow damage). Meanwhile Vâlcea rose to
tenth place (while Argeş was pushed down to twelfth place) and 1995 Brasov appeared in
these rankings in seventh place at the expense of Bistriţa-Năsăud which fell to thirteenth
place on this occasion.
Aside from the fluctuating county rankings is the reality of a greater output per
hectare in the purely lowland counties than in the counties involved in Carpathian territory:
indeed the margin was considerable in 1995 (2.56cu.m/ha against 2.01) but narrowed
progressively in 2000 (2.43 compared with 2.19) and 2005 (2.43 and 2.33).
This reflects substantial areas of protection woodland – and inaccessible forests – in
the Carpathians while the lowlands contain significant areas devoted to rotations involving
fast-growing species. Further data in Table 4 from FAO sources highlights the slackening
in production in the 1990s which contributed to an overall growth in forest resources, stock
and increment and a fall in felling and production/consumption for both roundwood and
sawnwood. Forecasts vary with a more cautious ‘conservation’ strategy and an ‘integration’
that reflects what is now the reality of EU accession: production is expected to rise with
consumption, with a margin for export. The baseline forecast assumes a lower level of
consumption increase while conservation assumes a decrease.
Table 2: Forest area and production by regions
Region Forest Area Wood Production
th.ha/percent 1995 2000 2005
total area@ A B A B A B
Central 1242.0 36.4 3425 2.76 3408 2.85 3669 2.95
North 1231.2 33.4 3356 2.71 3771 3.18 3927 3.04
North 1036.2 30.3 1680 1.61 1670 1.66 2001 1.93
South* 676.6 19.4 1386 1.97 1471 2.13 1769 2.52
South 573.2 16.0 1063 1.90 1102 2.06 1161 2.02
South 858.7 29.4 1362 1.62 1190 1.43 1232 1.43

West 1098.4 34.3 1540 1.48 1674 1.66 1902 1.73
Total 6742.8 28.3 13813 2.07 14285 2.21 15671 2.32

A Production; B Production cu.m/ha of forest. @ Calculations relate to 2005: area

figures vary slightly from year to year.; * includes data from the areally small Bucharest-
Ilfov region.
Source: Anuarul Statistic
Table 3: Forest area and production in the Carpathian counties
County Forest Area Timber Production
th.ha/percent 1995 2000 2005
of total area@ A B A B A B
Alba 225.7 36.2 348 1.53 361 1.74 355 1.57
Arad 212.0 27.3 435 2.05 451 2.22 500 2.26
Argeş 289.9 42.5 366 1.26 475 1.70 625 2.15
Bacău 281.8 42.6 663 2.37 697 2.61 680 2.41
Bihor 197.2 26.1 318 1.63 269 1.38 282 1.43
Bistriţa- 192.0 35.9 442 2.15 440 2.32 589 3.07
Braşov 199.3 37.2 435 2.18 500 2.51 517 2.59
Buzău 163.9 26.9 308 1.81 396 1.87 358 2.18
Caraş- 411.3 48.3 523 1.28 511 1.31 677 1.64
Cluj 170.6 25.6 183 1.08 253 1.66 236 1.38
Covasna 165.2 44.5 560 3.37 467 2.81 545 3.30
Dâmboviţa 120.9 29.8 190 1.57 221 1.83 258 2.13
Gorj 274.1 48.9 272 0.99 303 1.11 316 1.15
Harghita 239.0 36.0 1296 5.57 1131 4.87 1064 4.45
Hunedoara 366.0 51.8 357 1.14 460 1.49 412 1.12
Maramureş 289.2 45.9 519 1.79 475 1.64 632 2.18
Mehedinţi 149.8 30.4 272 1.82 222 1.50 205 1.36
Mureş 208.7 31.1 548 2.53 571 2.77 773 3.70
Neamţ 260.9 44.2 922 3.54 957 3.68 962 3.69
Prahova 150.4 31.9 305 2.01 328 2.16 357 2.38
Sălaj 106.6 27.6 95 0.89 89 0.93 109 1.02
Satu Mare 80.9 18.3 122 1.56 143 1.77 154 1.90
Sibiu 204.1 37.3 238 2.53 378 2.03 415 2.03
Suceava 453.6 53.0 1282 2.81 1577 3.63 1711 3.77
Timiş 109.1 12.5 225 2.06 251 2.31 313 2.87
Vâlcea 290.9 50.5 438 1.52 372 1.37 408 1.40
Vrancea 193.3 39.8 340 1.78 388 2.14 424 2.24
Carpathians 6006.4 36.6 12004 2.01 12598 2.19 13985 2.33
Top Ten 2791.4 42.9 7193 2.57 7361 2.70 8258 2.96
Lowlands 736.4 9.9 1809 2.56 1686 2.43 1686 2.43
Total 6742.8 28.3 13813 2.07 14285 2.21 15671 2.32
A Production; B Production cu.m/ha of forest; @ Calculations relate to 2005: area
figures vary slightly from year to year. Source: Anuarul Statistic
Table 4: Forest Sector Parameters: historical trends and forecasts
Year A B C D E F G H
1961 5.20 938.0 14.45 28.21 19.75 18.64 4.43 2.85
1970 5.90 1265.0 26.90 31.84 22.29 21.47 5.44 3.42
12● Romania’s Forests under Transition

1980 5.85 1268.0 26.90 25.24 17.67 17.97 4.65 3.68

1990 5.41 1202.0 31.60 18.01 12.51 13.02 2.91 2.54
2000 5.68 1202.0 31.50 15.78 13.15 12.63 3.40 1.08
Annual Change +0.5 +0.5 +2.0 -1.0 -1.0 -1.0 -0.7 -2.5
2000 5.57 1518.9 38.63 20.02 14.01 14.60 3.24 1.04
2010 5.39 1786.5 36.51 22.64 15.85 15.66 4.16 1.29
2020 5.25 1922.8 32.19 25.49 18.55 17.19 5.17 1.56
Annual Change -0.3 +1.2 -0.9 +1.4 +1.4 +0.8 +2.4 +2.0
2000 n.a. n.a. n.a. 20.02 14.01 14.50 3.24 1.04
2010 n.a. n.a. n.a. 19.13 13.39 13.93 3.56 1.13
2020 n.a. n.a. n.a. 21.69 15.17 13.94 4.02 1.25
Annual Change n.a. n.a. n.a. +0.4 +0.4 -0.2 +1.1 -0.2
2000 5.57 1518.9 38.63 20.02 14.01 14.60 3.24 1.04
2010 5.43 1772.8 36.72 35.64 17.95 17.07 4.63 1.42
2020 5.32 1882.8 33.02 33.31 23.32 20.11 6.11 1.51
Annual Change -0.2 +1.1 -0.8 +2.6 +2.6 +1.6 +3.2 +2.8
A Forest resources mln.ha; B Growing stock over bark; C Increment ditto,
D Fellings ditto; E Roundwood production ditto; F Ditto consumption; G Sawnwood production; H
Ditto consumption
Source: FAO

2.2 Competition for Timber

The total amount of timber available is determined by felling volumes set by NFA but
the auctions only cover 85-90% of what is available, so that some un-thinned stands have been
left vulnerable to windblow and stem quality has been affected. In 2001 for example, of wood were available for harvesting: 15.3 from state forests; 1.3 from private
woodlands and 0.4 from other sources. were earmarked for use by NFA and for
heating and construction by country people, while the rest was available for commerce which
involves a balance between export as sawn timber, or even raw timber, and more sophisticated
processing. Indeed, free trade immediately resulted in exports of raw timber – notably to the
Middle East – while local processors found it hard to compete for the timber they needed.
Therefore export of logs was banned during 1990-8 (and again briefly in 2001-2) in order to
stimulate the processors and promote value added, although NFA income was reduced as
under-valued timber stimulated inefficient processors. Removal of the ban brought an increase
in standing wood prices (up 50% during 1995-2002) and increased foreign investment in wood
processing, though many harvesting companies continued to operate at low technical
standards. Meanwhile. timber prices have generally been determined through auctions held
annually since 1995, but since 2001 a competition office has supervised reserve prices for
standing wood sold by auction in order to safeguard the NFA’s income in places with weak
competition before a general increase the upset price for tenders by 60% in 2005. To try and
avoid undue protection, the 1996 Forest Code did not allow long-term contracts with
processors guaranteeing supply. But uncertainty was found to discourage investment and 10-
year deals were permitted in 2002 in respect of 40% of the annual cut (while private forest
owner associations began to establish their own SMEs for logging). Again, to protect the
state’s revenue logging companies had to be debt-free in order to bid, but while one Vrancea

forest chief was dismissed for ‘robbery’, arising from tender irregularities involving successful
bids from companies in debt, the near-bankrupt state-owned company Brafor (Braşov) was
tolerated because it was one of the few enterprises with long distance skylines capable of
extracting timber from relatively inaccessible areas. Indeed it was only with EU accession
looming that bankruptcy legislation was applied and Brafor’s assets were put up for sale in
2005. Unfortunately Brafor had previously closed its Comandău sawmill and its narrow-gauge
rail link with Covasna via the inclined plane at head of Valea Zânelor and the subsequent
bankruptcy formalities then complicated the conservation project that had started on this
unique transport system which had operated with the same basic technology for more than a

2.3 Non-Timber Forest Products

(NTFPs), not always recognised by traditional accounting procedures, include berries
and mushrooms that are widely collected informally. Recently however some ‘ocols’ have
started contracting the harvest to export companies and with picking organised through Roma
teams. This may lead to over-exploitation and certainly provides an important area for future
research. Forest fruit processing is developing at such places as Pojorâta (Suceava), Valea
Râului (Vâlcea) and Galicia (Vrancea) while some highly rewarding contacts have been made
e.g. in 2001 the economic press mentioned a collector in Bistriţa-Năsăud who found
‘păstrăviori’ (rare mushrooms with a distinct, slightly sweet, flavour) in the Căliman
Mountains and was able to export them for pizzas through an Italian living in Cluj paying
$100/kg. The NFA in Satu Mare exports live pheasants to Italy for hunting.
Hunting generates the greatest incomes and is organised through clearly-defined
‘beats’ within the main massifs that are available for the enjoyment of people connected with
the forest administration and members of the national organisation of hunters and sporting
fishermen. Prominent individuals are often involved and hunting featured strongly among the
client networks of the Năstase government during 2001-4. The late President Ceauşescu was a
keen hunter - indeed local authorities could often get useful access to him through well-
appointed hunting chalets and the preparation of a bear hunt through regular feeding at bait
sites where the hunters could lie in wait. More than 2,500 of Ceauşescu's hunting trophies are
displayed at the Posada Carpathian Hunting Museum (Prahova) set up under the aegis of Peleş
National Museum: also 550 of his medals and diplomas. But hunting is also seen as a branch
of tourism generating a substantial income for NFA from wealthy European businessmen from
Austria France, Germany, Spain and Italy - and to a lesser extent the ECECs. According to
specialists the most vigorous and wildest game all over Europe can be found in Romania.
Hunters are businessmen from Austria France, Germany, Spain and Italy - and to a lesser
extent the ECECs. Many more are expected in the wake of EU accession..
Specialist companies such as Sepoy Tourism handle the formalities for hunting parties
with accommodation at forest lodges or elsewhere e.g. in the Brodina, Broşteni, Crucea,
Frasin, Horodnic, Pătrăuţi, Pojorâta and Stulpicani areas of Suceava County (although a
problem has arisen over some 50 chalets nationwide that lie on restituted land where the
organisation is trying to retrieve its investment). Weekly costs amount to some $1,500 but
much greater amounts are charged for trophies. In the Suceava area in 2000 hunters would pay,
depending on quality (after expert examination), up to DM2,000 for a roebuck (available
during June-August), wild boar (October-January) or mountain cock (April-May); rising to
14● Romania’s Forests under Transition

DM6,000 for a stag (September-October) and DM20,000 for a bear (March-May). Much
higher figures have since been quoted such as €16,000 for a boar and €23,000 for a stag; with
difficult decisions arising when species enjoy protection (as in the case of large carnivores) and
stalking requires special authorisation based on perceived threats posed by specific animals.
The forests also offer fishing although there are reports that this has been reduced in scale
where hydropower projects have been implemented (as at Teregova, Caraş-Severin) while the
NFA in Arad offers chalet accommodation in connection with forest walks, wildlife
appreciation and folklore. It should be added that hunting extends way beyond the forests:
indeed Romania has some 23,500ha of hunting zones of which only 6,300ha are wooded. The
Balc wild boar concession in Bihor has attracted considerable interest along with the Danube
floodplain e.g. at Călăraşi where the Oniro Agency organises weekly itineraries. Poaching is a
problem not least through indirect negative effects on ‘non-target’ species by ingestion of lead

2.4 Conservation
The forests are of great importance for conservation, stabilising ground and holding
large volumes of water (Patroescu et al. 2006) and the wider region (Gutkowski 2007). There
are risks of major natural hazards that sylvicultural policies can help to minimize (Bălteanu &
Şerban 2006). Environmental policy during 2000-4 aimed at harmonisation with EU directives
with regard to emissions, water quality and waste management – all relevant to sylviculture
through the prospect of reduced air pollution in the worst-affected areas – otherwise (since
sylvicultural seems to have been reasonably good) there may not be much cause for concern
apart from setting the total annual cut and financing the planting and restoration work.
Influence from Europe became evident through certification for which the social criteria are
still being developed. The intention was to achieve a forested area of 27.3% in 2004-5 and
maintain the integrity of national forested regions through a period of changing ownership with
enforcement of regulations governing the cutting of timber; also the ecological role of forests
was enhanced by such measures as regulation of the use of fertilisers and pesticides to protect
flora and fauna. Income is provided by forestry contributes to the Environmental Fund through
a 1.0% levy on annual sales of standing timber and 30% of value of exported logs (both
introduced in 2001). Areas with greatest vulnerability are those prone rapid erosion/deposition
e.g. steep slopes and the sides of glaciated valleys; while low risk areas are forested slopes with
low temperatures and lack of tourist pressure; also the erosion surfaces of the Borascu level
(Florea 1996). Lower forested slopes are critically vulnerable areas in the context of heavy in
pressure through economic activity in depressions - but to varying degrees. In the Southern
Carpathians (Buza 2000), risk is high in Haţeg (especially at the contact with the Sebeş
Mountains) and Petroşani; moderate in Brezoi and the Trans-Carpathian Olt Corridor; with
dynamic equilibrium for Bran-Rucăr-Dragoslavele (Velcea 1998, p.196).

The forest also helps to minimise risks of floods and landslides (as well as earthquake
damage) in relatively unstable areas like the Moldavian Plateau, Subcarpathians and
Transylvanian Depression (Bălteanu & Oancea 1994). In the Subcarpathians, particularly
prone to mass movements, the plant cover shows a mosaic structure regarding floristic
composition and density, becoming more homogenous if movements cease or have low
intensity. Eventually the pioneer species will be replaced by plants specific to the respective

zonal vegetation. Planted trees on degraded land can help fix the ground (also ‘cătina’ scrub
i.e. buckthorn) and encourage the evolution of meadow associations for grazing (Surdeanu
1998) while it is also important to regulate torrential streams (Traci & Ivan 1990). Meanwhile,
lowland forest has great value in sandy areas and afforestation is also needed as part of the
response to desertification which is likely to affect the southern half of the country
(especially Banat, Dobrogea and Oltenia) and reduce maize yield to 60% of the present
level. There is a serious problem in Dolj County where the woodland cover has declined 12-
7% in 30 years and Agenţia Regională pentru Protecţia Mediului ARPM say that 100,000ha
of farmland threatened by chaotic cutting in the south of the county and the consequent
aggravation of the desiccation process. One of the recommendations is an extensive
planting programme of oak and ‘salcâm’ by the Ocol Silvic at Sadova. Finally reference
should be made to the worst cases of industrial pollution identified in the early 1990s,
notably the ‘Ampellum’ copper smelter at Zlatna (Mihăilescu & Ciobanu 1993; Şerban

2.5 Defending the Forest against Threats

This has been an ongoing concern in modern times when even the authorities were
oblivious to the environmental damage - most evident through extreme erosion and gullying in
the Subcarpathians - arising from clear-felling by logging companies at the turn of the
nineteenth century; a situation partially rectified after decades of conservation work in the last
century (Untaru 1986; Untaru & Traci 1985). Heavy cutting of forests under communism -
exceeding the level of regeneration - meant that while the forest area did not significantly
decrease the woodlands became younger and thinner. Historically, pressure from pastoralists
can be seen in attempt to remove the bushy vegetation consisting of Carpathian pine that is
often found at high levels in the mountains and has been widely cut to increase seasonal
grazing for livestock. Although it has developed in some cases through poor land management
in areas that could be improved without risk of degradation, it is generally considered
important for conservation by offering protection against erosion and maintaining biodiversity
- hence the legal protection that is now afforded to prevent further formerly afforested areas in
the alpine zone from degenerating into pasture (Muică & Popova 1996). Some existing stands
play a key role in protecting water resources and these are also immune from commercial
exploitation (Popescu & Popescu 2001). This is linked with the Water Law of 1995
recognising the mountains as Romania’s natural ‘water tower’ and seeking to safeguard
supplies by rational management to reduce pollution and control forestry operations, as well as
pastoralism and tourism (Zăvoianu 1993). Although once again managed by the commune
authority is under strict control and dwarf pine brushwoods (‘jnepenişuri’) are also protected.
More sustainable forest needs better management which is being assisted by the World Bank
in certain protected areas: Piatra Craiului, Retezat and Vanători-Neamţ: the latter a 20,000ha
forest part in Târgu Neamţ and Văratec forest districts where ecological clubs at local schools
are involving pupils in ‘adopt a tree’ programmes planting 500 seedlings over 1000sq.m in
2001. Designation of March 1998 as ‘forest month’ also stimulated public interest in planting
and regeneration, including involvement of school pupils.
2.5.1 Natural Hazards: Windblow and Forest Drying. Forests are becoming more
vulnerable through a reduced cycle for windblow from ten to three years: of
timber were destroyed in Covasna, Harghita and Mureş in 1995-6 - and another in
16● Romania’s Forests under Transition

1998 in Bistriţa-Năsăud, Covasna, Harghita and Neamţ (Popa 2000; Stănescu 1996b). This
certainly affected timber production in these areas and may also have affected the national
clear-felling ratio at the time (though a health hazard arose when high transport costs left a
legacy of some Reforestation of wind-blow areas was still behind schedule in
eastern Transylvania in 1999: replanting should be done within two years but this target is
often missed especially in the Danube plains where preparation of the land is very expensive. It
is possible that the ongoing dangers of windblow are being exaggerated to provide a cover for
illegal felling although the causes for the destruction in 1995-6 seem well-founded. Meanwhile
much damage has also arisen through the forest drying phenomenon (Vasile 1998). Arising
from pollution combined with climatic stress (extreme heat, water deficit etc) and other biotic
and non-biotic factors, it occurs in pure and mixed forests especially in the lowlands (less
frequently in the hills and less still in the mountains) and is evident through defoliation
followed by decreased productivity. The impact varies with species: 6.2% of Romania's forest
affected according to a 1994 survey (90.1% deciduous; 9.9% coniferous) and the lowlands
were most affected with the effects of water deficit and high temperatures maximised. Local
variations arise with damage exacerbated by pollution by the chemical and cement industries
(very evident in counties with over 20,000ha affected - Alba, Gorj and Hunedoara - and in a
string of others where 10-20,000ha are involved: Arad, Bihor, Braşov, Cluj and Maramureş in
Transylvania, Bacău and Neamţ in Moldavia, Dolj , Mehedinţi and Vâlcea in Oltenia and
Argeş, Dâmboviţa and Tulcea in the Muntenia-Drobrogea. The least-affected areas (below
2,500ha) are all agricultural counties in the Romanian Plain where the total forest area is quite
small in any case (Brăila, Călăraşi, Constanţa ,Galaţi, Ialomiţa, Olt and Teleorman) along with
Harghita, Mureş, Prahova and Vaslui. However other factors are drought (especially in the
case of impermeable geological structures), pollution, grazing pressure, insect pests and fungal
diseases, erosion and bad forest management.
2.5.2 Illegal Cutting on a cumulatively massive scale involves many small individual
incursions for fuel for domestic stoves and some large-scale actions by mafia-type
organizations reported by people intimately-acquainted with specific areas where foresters
have been resisted by violence (Ploaie & Turnock 2001). Woodland restitution under the first
phase (Law 18/1991) also resulted in heavy felling as many of the new owners sought to
realise the value of their acquisitions. The change of use to pasture has led to erosion and
degradation of the flora and fauna, not to mention the great waste of wood material left on the
ground. During 1991-8 over 25,000ha of forest was illegally cut (rising from 83,000cu.m in
1987 to 127,000 1997). Exacerbated by pollution, illegal cutting after 1989 results in a forest
surface that today is 1.3mln.ha smaller than in 1989. Exacerbated by pollution, most of the
damage occurred during 1990-4 and is most dramatic in sandy lowland areas where mobile
sands may threaten Craiova by 2010 and Bucharest by 2030, while threats in Moldavia could
include Iaşi. But the problem continues and seizures of illegally cut wood are being made
regularly (much originality in cutting and transporting!). There has been some large scale
organised abuse e.g. the media reported that a gang of 100 Roma stole 15,000 acacia trees -
35,000cu.m. - in the Hanu Conachi area of Galaţi under a three-day police surveillance
operation; while foresters have been threatened, prevented from entering their territories (e.g.
in the Panaci and Vatra Dornei areas) and in some cases killed. To help stop illegal cutting
government wants certification so that all exports of wood would have specify quality and
source area. Meanwhile progress is being made with the mapping of forests through GIS (Ganz
& Pătrăscoiu 2000). It is also evident that wider natural gas distribution could reduce pressure

on the forests: in 1999 when the official cut was fixed at, 2.1mln was earmarked
for firewood. However illegal collection of firewood and some illegal marketing of timber
without documentation by the local (town or commune) authority is driven in part by poverty
(Mihaieşcu & Floca 1999) and higher rural incomes will be needed if new gas supplies are to
be paid for. It is also easy for genuine mistakes to be made through unclear ownership and
lack of control, education and information, Moreover in the early 1990s, when very small
areas were restituted and the concept of private owner was new, some beneficiaries feared
that their restituted woodlands would be re-nationalised following a change in government.
At the same time, while cutting is excessive in some areas, there are other places where forests
cannot grow for lack of cutting!
Maramureş is claimed as a target for the ‘forest mafia’ (which may include some
involvement by foresters in illegal logging) and recent damage contributes to a massive
deforestation over the last three centuries - linked with domestic needs and agriculture, but also
the mining industry e.g. the consumption of beechwood at Băiuţ (Dinca 1996) - that is
unfortunate given the rigorous climatic conditions (wind and frost). Moisei et al. (2000, p.68)
also refer to deforestation in Maramureş in the 1960s and increasing in the 1970s “as a result
of the baneful policy of agricultural surfaces extension established by the CC of the RCP
Plenary Meeting July 1970 when huge surfaces from the Carpathians were destroyed”. Further
pressures have arisen from excessive grazing - leading to inferior vegetation (Nardus stricta)
and disappearance of rare protected plants - and excessive collection of medicinal plants; while
sterile material was carried away by floods in the Borşa area. In Suceava illegal clear felling
goes way beyond the damage previously sustained through trans-boundary pollution from
former Czechoslovakia and Ukraine and pollution linked with sulphur production in the
Căliman (now much reduced). Meanwhile in the Apuseni, unregulated growth of small private
sawmills has resulted in much sawdust being dumped on riverbanks and washed downstream
by floods with consequent pollution of streams and eutrophication of lakes, which in turn
affects the fauna and water quality. A partial solution has been found through the development
of particleboard manufacture in Sebeş which can use much of this material. Various
improvements within the forestry sector could help. Replanting is often delayed due to lack of
finance where the NFA does not get the anticipated income from timber sales.
2.5.3 Planting in Vulnerable Areas. Further afforestation is taking place on degraded
farmland that cannot be efficiently famed (REF), including belts along streams, other soil
protection measures and hydrographic works (Traci & Ivan 1990). 2.5mln.ha of such land in
Romania (not to mention 7.0mln.ha susceptible to erosion to some extent) provide
opportunities for planting (irrespective of ownership) through the help of specialised units and
biological material secured from the NFA in 1999. In 2001 NFA undertook regeneration on
22,000ha: 42% by natural regeneration and 58% planting. They also replenished some 5.3th.ha
of forest hit by calamities in 2000. $3mln have been granted by World Bank to afforest
6,700ha degraded land under the World Bank Carbon Prototype Fund (CPF), linked with the
Kyoto Protocol - a mechanism to “purchase the net carbon sequestered by the newly
established plantations” (Abrudan et al. 2003, p.16) otherwise the work would not be
economically viable on land ruined by irrigation and mismanagement. Over 15 years the new
forests should account for 855,000t of carbon dioxide at $3.6/t. The programme involves total
investments of $13mln. The land is being planted during 2002-5 in Brăila, Dolj, Mehedinţi,
Olt, Tulcea and Vaslui counties. Species include acacia and poplar - the latter following
18● Romania’s Forests under Transition

research on various types to develop a model for the Danube valley whereby trees should reach
an industrial diameter in 10 years (Benea 2002); although exotics proved relatively unstable on
the plains wherte 4,000ha need reafforestation The scheme also has relevance to tips in the Jiu
valley coalfield. 8.0ha of buckthorn and pine have been planted around Petroşani since 1987,
with recent support from the World Bank scheme that makes it feasible to bring in top soil to
cover the tips to a depth of 20-30cms. After the initial experiments it is expected the mining
company will continue the work with its own funds. There is also a programme of woodland
belts to protect farmland and roads - implemented in Vrancea after droughts and high winds in
the 1980s: after an initial 43ha in 1989-90, work continued after 1993 over 3,766ha.
Meanwhile in sandy areas the NFA are trying to prevent desertification by increasing
woodland in these areas by 0.60mln.ha during 2002-2010 (including 60ha of protection
‘curtains’ on the sands of Dolj). They will also create a ecological corridor 300-1,000m wide
along the Danube in the Bărăgan and continue work in polluted areas like Copşa Mică
(Bărbăţei 2001; Untaru et al. 2000) and Baia Mare (Leşan 2002)
2.5.4 Forest Roads simplify extraction but also reduce the damage to standing trees
and water courses caused by dragging tree stems considerable distances to points where
vehicle transport is available (although the roads themselves can provoke erosion by canalising
rain water, as in the Gardişoara, Ribicioara and Vidra valleys in the Apuseni). The forest road
network extends to 39,200km of forest roads (including some public roads and others built for
mining/hydropower use where wood collection is allowed): 6.1m/ha against an EU norm of 30.
12-15 is thought the optimum for Romania which means that another 40,000km are needed to
discourage clear felling of more accessible areas and reduce skidding distances (Madaras
1998). All forests should be opened to exploitation except where protection is the overriding
consideration. – yet only 65% of the total forest stock is accessible and there are still 2.2mln.ha
of forest cannot be effectively used. Roads are now the key transport mode since all the forest
railways surviving in 1989 have now closed apart from the Moldoviţa and Vişeu systems.
After 365kms of new roads had been built during 1994-8 – and 294kms rehabilitated, the EU
helped in 2000 in respect of forest roads providing village access under the Social
Development Fund. But roads form a key part of current plans: extending existing systems
(rather than opening up undisturbed forests). Instead of FAO calling for 1,000kms of
upgrading and 1,500kms of new roads, the World Bank commends ‘pilot infrastructure
development’ aimed at identifying the best practices and improving efficiency in construction’
to improve cost efficiency (through lower harvesting and transport costs) and increase sales.
Better roads will also boost the output of accessory produce such as berries and mushrooms. In
1999 when the cut was fixed at (14.6mln from state forests), 1.0mln was to be
taken from inaccessible areas (totalling 2.1mln.ha) by organisations tendering for the right to
design and build forest roads. A 2.5km forest road in the Verendin area of the Semenic
Mountains (Caraş-Severin) was the first to follow from a five year ‘trees for roads’ agreement
between NFA and Tenneco (who operate the Buchin factory) and in this way some 50kms of
roads will appear in the Reşiţa area and another 20-30 under further agreements in Suceava.
Progressive local authorities are producing some quite elaborate planning documents that seek
to coordinate all public investment. A good example is Cugir in Alba County
( where the authority will repair the Prislop (Râul Mic) and Râul Mare
roads and complete a new road for Groşi.

2.5.5 Waste Timber is a serious problem arising from the tradition of low
technology harvesting and processing. It is obviously unsatisfactory that material is not used
as fully as possible especially when waste leads to environmental damage. There is a
historic problem arising from the value placed on stems (‘buşteni’) as opposed to the
branches which are usually left to litter the deforested hillsides and although research was
carried out at the Braşov Forestry School on ‘whole-tree harvesting’ during the communist
period – and still continues – it has not yet produced results. Meanwhile sawdust and other
waste is being used in sawmill boilers and also for municipal energy projects. The small
town of Huedin (west of Cluj-Napoca) rejected the orthodoxy of gas-based heating in favour
of a PPP with a Danish company in respite of a district heating station (serving 600 local
apartments) using sawdust from the local ‘Furnituri’ and ‘Vladeasa’ factories. 65% of the
finance was provided by the Danish government and 25% by the Romanian industry
ministry. Meanwhile sawdust from many of the new private sawmills that have sprung up in
Apuseni following forest restitution (discussed below) which was initially dumped
haphazardly, leading to pollution of the rivers, is now collected for use in the boardmill at
Sebes. Another new project at Tarcău (Valea Munteliu) is converting waste into dust that
can be pressed at 17 atmospheres to produce small 5.0x0.5cm briquettes
(‘palele’/‘batoane’). The product will sell as ‘ecological fuel’ at €260/t. in Austria and
Hungary as well as Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Developing out of cooperation between
the Danish and Romanian environment ministries, the project has attracted a arises from a
€5mln investment by the Danish side supplemented by a small (15%) contribution from the
commune which will benefit from business taxation as well as profit on the investment and
the elimination of waste which will collected in the wider area by a fleet of large lorries. Of
course much more remains to be done in this field.


Before nationalisation in 1948 only 28% of the Romania’s forests were state-owned,
while 23% were in private ownership and almost half were owned by urban and rural
communities as well as religious and education institutions. But after 1948 the state monopoly
was in practice moderated only by some two percent for forestland belonging to some
agricultural cooperatives and communities as a result of local arrangements reported in areas
such as Vrancea. However after 1989 there was a gradual process of restitution. Law 18/1991
gave former landowners and their descendents up to one hectare of forest (often fragmented)
with ‘communities’ and churches excluded. Law 1/2000 then allowed individual owners and
their descendents up to 10ha while community forests and churchlands were restored in full.
And finally Law 247/2005 together with Emergency Ordinance 209 in the same year allowed
full restoration of forest estates on their original location including land within existing
protected areas (thus paving the way for conflict since compensation payments are not yet
forthcoming). There was now no upper limit and former owners were allowed to file claims
(by the end of November 2005) in respect al all former woodlands <>.
Although politically controversial neoliberal arguments highlighting the relative
inefficiency of the state in the allocation of resources (compared with private companies and
woodland owners) have been supported by government response to undeniable pressure for
restitution. The logic of the market has been accepted but at the same time government has an
20● Romania’s Forests under Transition

obligation to encourage the private sector to act sustainably at a time when it is still at the
learning stage. Periods of economic and social instability are very dangerous for forest
resources as the general tendency is to give priority to short-term income generating activities.
Under the first law, 350,000 hectares of forests were given back to their former owners by
1997 (some five percent of the total national area of forest): 0.40mln individuals received a
maximum of 1.0ha of forest regardless of what they had possessed before nationalisation. The
outcome was extremely unfortunate because 20,000ha of woodland were cut (and a further
60,000ha badly degraded) while new owners did not undertake any replanting (Abrudan
2002). There were some particularly bad local cases e.g. at Bârsava near Săvârşin (Arad)
where 51ha were cut. It was calculated that all the clear-felling of restituted woodlands cost
$1.5bln in reduced protection (i.e. greater flood damage, poorer habitats and reduced
productive capacity).
The second law was passed belatedly by the centre-right government elected in 1997. It
attracted claims amounting to some 3.0mln.ha (Parnuta & Machedon 2000): 916.0th.ha for
individuals who could now own up to 10ha; 65.4th for churches and educational institutions
who could own up to 30ha; and 2006.6th.ha for towns or communes that were allowed to
reclaim all their former holdings (Lawrence & Szabo 2005b). By early 2002, 1.58mln.ha had
been proposed for restitution by local commissions (although initially only 1.30mln.ha were
validated by county commissions, with 0.82mln.ha subsequently deemed eligible and
0.56mln.ha actually restituted at that time). In 2002 a new law allowed for private holdings of
up to 100ha. This was passed by the new Năstase centre-left government and while justified on
the basis of popular demand such a rapid and major concession over the upper limit may have
been intended to benefit leading clients of the new régime. And with further legislation in
2005 the number of private owners should double as a further 2.5mln.ha of forest are returned:
this is less than the amount claimed, but some applications are inadmissible e.g. because some
communes want forests they have controlled only since 1953 when they were taken from
private owners; while problems arise where churches have closed and former communities
(‘composesorate’ or ‘obstii’) have lost many of their members.
Some very large areas are now being returned. In 2006 27,000ha woodland went to the
Sturdza family in the Ceahlău area of Neamţ county (Ceahlău, Farcaşa, Grinţieş, Hangu and
Poiana Teiului communes); locally deplored as a ‘great mistake’ even though the new owners
intend to develop wood processing and tourism (for it is understandable that such settlements
should cause resentment if there are still small claims outstanding – or if there are influential
former communists who do not qualify for restitution at all. Meanwhile restitution for the
Kendeffy family (major landowners in the Retezat Mountains before 1918) includes some
6,000 ha woodland in Hunedoara county’s Râu de Mori commune, including 4,000ha in the
Retezat national park. 9.000ha at Oituz (Bacău) have gone to the family of Mărăşeşti hero
Gen.E.Grigorescu while outstanding claims remain in the same county over the Ghika
estate (30,000ha) as well as former leading families such as Rosetti, Stirbei and Sturdza. In
2007 almost 4,500ha of forest in the vicinity of Neamţ monastery was returned to the
Metropolitan of Moldavia; while some 20,000 outstanding claims in Suceava (involving
300,000ha) includes one from the Orthodox Church in respect of their historic domains
(192,000ha) and another for the 50,000ha estate at Pojorâta. At the same time there is much
concern that further privatisation will result in more indiscriminate felling and therefore a
sustainable management code will be mandatory. Indeed a major short-term priority has been

the development of a comprehensive legal and operational frame to speed up the restitution
process and encourage sustainable management (although private forests are still likely to be
poorly managed in the short term). Private forests will have to be managed under the
traditional system of the ‘Ocol Silvic’ although special districts may be created for groups of
private woodlands. In 2006 the state still held 66% of the forests, compared with 13% for
communes, 10% for ‘juridical persons’ and 11% for ‘physical persons’
A recent study of local experiences of restitution found varied attitudes to woodland
ownership. There were no positive sentiments over nationalization but certainly grievances
where heavy cutting took place in some areas to pay war reparations. Different experiences
arise again over restitution with some claims not fully met in all cases (some not at all) – or
resolved at a location different from that of the former family estate - while land has gone
to others with no genuine claim at all (perhaps politically-prominent individuals perceived
as gaining some of the best forest) (Lawrence and Guran, 2006). Personal attitudes to
woodland ownership include many cases of strong attachment to family assets: as an
inheritance appreciated in religious and spiritual terms as well as its economic value – as
opposed to the more casual attitudes of typical urban-based beneficiaries. There seems to be
a clear generation gap in the sense that the older people are most likely to place a high value
on woodland ownership and have a sound environmental appreciation; while worrying over
the attitude of a younger absentee generation that appears all too ready to cut the trees.

3.1 Community Woodlands

Given the risks of excessive fragmentation with many small areas of woodland owned
by single persons, the tradition of communal woodlands (fully recognized by the law of 2000)
would seem to offer a sound basis for a cooperative approach through ‘composesorate’ - is
now considered a realistic option to avoid fragmentation and retain the forest as a complex and
valuable natural resource system while allowing local interests to benefit to benefit in terms of
income for poverty-alleviating consumption as well as investment and development (Ioraş et
al. 1999b). The law requires ownership to follow the 1945 (i.e. pre-communist) pattern, so any
former ‘composesorate’ will be automatically reconstructed. But in addition individual owners
are being asked to form associations but without pooling their land. In the Piatra Craiului
where some 6,000ha of forest are being transferred the community stands to benefit through
the marketing of wood products on the basis of quality and certification of sustainable
management. This can be part of a new balancing of land uses reflected in the ‘nested’
resources of forests: pasture, food, fuel, building materials and recreation, with transparent
procedures needed to reconcile the needs of the relevant stakeholder groups (Beckley 1998).
In the Piatra Craiului there is a case for reduced sheep grazing pressure in the interest of large
carnivore conservation that in turn sustains a flourishing rural tourism in the Bran-Zărneşti area
(Ioraş et al. 1999a; 2001). The community dimension may well become stronger because while
the law of 2000 requires ownership to follow the 1945 (i.e. pre-communist) pattern – hence
any former ‘composesorat’ or ‘obst’ will be automatically reconstructed - individual owners
are being asked to form associations but without pooling their land. Experience seems to vary
even between communities traditionally in using the forest for local building/fuel use (also
artistic woodworking seen in carving on houses) as well NTFPs by way of sheep grazing,
hunting, fishing and medicinal plants. Whereas research at Chiojd (Buzău county) found
members very satisfied with the restitution process and happy to have their forest back as a
22● Romania’s Forests under Transition

community asset (though some blamed high administrative, transport and marketing costs for
the low returns for individual families), another study at Dorna Candrenilor (Suceava county)
reported complaints that a community woodland did not constitute ‘real ownership’. And
although in this latter case the law cannot allow individual family ownership (Lawrence and
Guran, 2006) cohesion was evidently compromised by perception of a lack of efficiency and
transparency on the part of those who would be happier looking after their own land.

3.2 The Association of Private Forest Owners (APFO)

It is a national level umbrella organization established in 1998 representing all
categories of private forest owners in Romania. It is a registered non-governmental, non-profit
legal entity and its funding comes from membership fees and sponsorship. At the end of 2001
its membership included about 120 local and county associations, communes, town halls and
individual members. APFO’s main concerns are: awareness of forest ownership; understanding
forest legislation, in particular the rights and responsibilities of private owners; local
management support; formation of local and county associations; and sustainable use of forest
resources. The new organisation will need a good deal of support to enhance public awareness
of sustainability issues especially among key stakeholders, provide extension services and
facilitate drawdown of funds from the EU’s Special Accession Programme for Agriculture &
Rural Development for afforesting some 14,000ha of land than should be converted from
agriculture to forest. APFO should be a force helping to restrain illegal cutting while ensuring
a supply of wood to satisfy the needs of local processors and other local stakeholder interests.
Such a community approach could be brought under the umbrella of certification systems
enabling responsible timber buyers to ensure (through ‘chain of custody’ documentation) that
their wood comes from ecologically reputable sources. With the support of many European
buyers of high quality timber, wood products can now be traced back through the
manufacturing process to the relevant forest management unit (FMU) where practice should
reflect recognised principles of forest stewardship promoted globally by the Forest
Stewardship Council (Fortech UK 1999).

3.3 Sustainable Management

In 2003 a $34.3mln project was started in partnership with the World Bank (providing
a long term loan of $25mln) to ensure sustainable management of private forests through
capacity building within the NFA and the inspectorate, supporting private forest owners’
associations, establishing a forest management information and monitoring system and
building public support for sustainable forest management through an awareness programme
among key stakeholders especially new forest land owners and their associated communities.
The project will also mitigate the consequences of restitution on the management of state forest
lands by assisting the NFA in managing protection forests and improving the efficiency of
production forests through development of the forest road network. It will also seek greater
productivity and competitiveness in wood industries through a Forest Sector Business
Information Centre. Accession to the EU is likely to give greater prominence to regional and
sub-regional forestry programmes, including government support to develop non-wood forest
functions - given the role of forests for environmental quality and also for economic
development through income, employment and value added. NGOs are also an active force for
conservation, most notably ‘Progresul Silvic’, with 12 branches and over 1,200 members,

which co-edits the only national forest magazine ‘Revista Pădurilor’ and has played an
important role in the scientific life and the debate on forest sector development.

3.4 Private Forest Districts numbered 46 in 2002: 15 in the North West with
120.2th.ha (of which 11 districts comprising 94,700ha were in Bistriţa-Năsăud alone); another
15 in the Centre comprising 90,300ha in Alba, Harghita, Mureş and Sibiu; four in the West
comprising 32,300ha in Arad and Caraş-Severin; along with seven in Vâlcea (93,100ha), two
each in Argeş (24,900ha) and Vrancea (33,500ha) and one in Neamţ (6,100ha) – showing
highly uneven progress in restitution that reflects various factors, not least the availability of
cadastral plans (the same imbalance was evident in the 1.58mln.ha proposed for restitution in
2002). Private districts fall outside the NFA structure but they remain subject to national forest
legislation so that despite ownership by individuals or by municipalities and communities -
making for differences in the nature of the job - a common element was retained through the
forester’s traditional pride in a job well-regarded by society, venerating the silvicultural code
for an ecological forestry ‘close to nature’ after the excesses of communism evident in clear-
felling and species change. In mid-2004 there were 77 districts and the largest areas were in
Bihor, Bistriţa-Năsăud, Braşov, Covasna and Sibiu counties; with more modest areas in Alba,
Arad, Argeş, Harghita, Mureş, Suceava, Vâlcea and Vrancea; very limited areas in Bacău,
Caraş-Severin, Gorj, Hunedoara, Prahova and Sălaj; and nothing the remaining Carpathian
counties of Cluj, Dâmboviţa, Maramureş, Mehedinţi, Neamţ, Satu Mare and Timiş. Most
progress was clearly being made in Transylvania – albeit unevenly – which may relate to the
efficiency of the local authorities and/or the availability of good cadastral maps. At the time of
writing (mid-2007) the private districts number 106 (Ioan Abrudan, pers.comm) and more
recently ten more have been established in Braşov and Covasna counties.
The better forests tend to be well-managed especially when the silviculturists are in
close contact with local politicians and owners in general. But foresters in the private sector
will need to engage professionally with the community and encounter suspicion where there is
a presumption that OS administration will be looking for ways to swindle the communities they
are hired to serve, especially given the somewhat chaotic allocations under the last restitution.
Foresters are in any case bearing the brunt of public dissatisfaction over restitution both from
people who have received less than they expected (or received woodland inconveniently
situated: many beneficiaries want the same areas their families had before) and from those who
resent the break-up of forests in principle. But OS chiefs in the private sector seem to have
greater job satisfaction because of the development of a new consciousness of belonging to
small expanding band of pioneers developing a new private silvicultural sector (an association
of private OSs working with individual owners and associations to ensure correct
management) although state foresters and those in the private sector continue to regard each
other with circumspection (Lawrence & Szabo 2005a; Lawrence and Guran, 2006). But recent
research provides further evidence of the need to support owners e.g. through grants and
environmental education (in which the schools and environmental NGOs could play a role)
and foresters who often lack education regarding the wider social and institutional aspects.
Whilst there is as yet no clear case for the superiority of one form of forest
administration over the other, two case studies illustrate the ways in which differences in
ownership, ecology and administration interact (Lawrence and Szabo, 2005a). One Retezat
community (Hunedoara county) of 40 households has seen restitution of 300ha of its old
24● Romania’s Forests under Transition

‘composesorat’ under a state-run ‘ocol’ but with limited satisfaction because of recent cutting
(implicit in the young birch trees - visible on the edge of the village – which have no timber
value) combined with a fear of theft and the loss of 100ha of woodland to the national park. On
the other hand a village in Sibiu county shows considerable community satisfaction and
confidence over a 2,800ha ‘composesorat’ with 568 members of whom 429 live in the village
(though some felt they had not reclaimed their full individual property) plus a holding of
2,200ha by the commune administration: a total of 5,000ha administered by a private ‘ocol’
(albeit below the optimum extent of 8-9,000ha). Thus the Sibiu people are generally positive –
including perceptions of the ‘primaria’, ocol silvic and the president of the ‘composesorat’
whereas the Retezat community has little trust in officialdom (including the foresters who are
blamed for irrational cutting) and feel cheated of a fair return. However, crucially the Retezat
forest was cut by the state shortly before restitution and the state management now generates
expenses but without providing any income, whereas the Jina woodlands have a good age
structure and bring in €3-400 annually (Lawrence & Szabo 2005b). It would therefore be
helpful if the media were to change from its ambivalent/negative stance over private
woodland ownership to afford a more balanced coverage. This could maximize the chances
for continued diversity of ownership – minimising the likelihood/possibility that small lots
will be consolidated in future if owners do not value their property or cannot afford
management costs.


Romanian forestry has arguably entered a new development phase since 1989.
Opening to the world economy has brought home the danger of excessive exports of raw
timber or semi-processed material that threatens much of the manufacturing capacity built
up over the previous half-century but a balance has now been struck and substantial foreign
investment in new processing capacity (although not discussed in this paper) is now
ensuring growth in value-added in sympathy with the revival in demand for raw material. At
the same time, attention is being given to a range of silvicultural matters including
reconstruction following the heavy felling of the communist years and the safeguarding of
protection woodlands given the dangers of erosion on unstable slopes and desertification in
the southern half of the country. However a relatively unknown variable lies in illegal
cutting which in some areas is rumoured to involve massive incursions by a well-organised
forest mafia. Illegality undoubtedly exists but the real losses do not seem to be clearly
established and press reports suggest significant differences in view between the NFA and
the peasantry at the grass roots. However with increasing attention to documentation for
movements of both timber and manufactured goods it is difficult to see how this problem
can develop far beyond local incursion by people collecting firewood. And such
depradations should be gradually curtailed by the wider availability of natural gas for
heating and rising incomes to pay for it; not to mention privatization which should more
local people an interest in protecting the forests.
The other major theme concerns woodland restitution which adds a further chapter to
complex history of forest ownership in Romania. In little more than a century Romania has
experienced a series of convulsions in the way the compressed modernisation process has
affected its forests. The state became a major forest owner from 1863 but did not get
involved in exploitation until the 1930s when CAPS began to open up hitherto-neglected

beech forests. Wartime collaboration with Germany gave rise to joint company
arrangements taken over by the USSR as ‘Sovromlemn’ which was dissolved after Stalin’s
death. Communist nationalisation then allowed for unified management of the country’s
forests for the first time – reversing the fragmentation process arising from the land reform
of 1921 and 1945 (compounded by sales reflecting the uncertainty of the 1944-8 transition)
and allowing coordinated development of forest transport systems – but with a flagrant
suppression of private ownership rights. A restocking programme of 2.8mln.ha during
1948-56 - all the more necessary because of high levels of cutting for war reparations l- was
compromised by political pressure for species change and while the high standard of
Romanian silviculture was generally maintained, exploitation continued to be heavy. And
while community grazing interests were strictly controlled (and indeed local benefits from
woodcutting and processing were limited to employment) the state could not deny the
claims of its own agriculture ministry and new clearings appeared in Vrancea for state farm
use. After 1989 the political case for restitution was unanswerable and action could hardly
be delayed because of limited capacity in government. But at least the first restitution law
(1991) – which provided a ‘cause célèbre’ for international NGOs urging tough
conservation measures – was a relatively modest affair and more effective controls were in
place by the time further legislation was passed from 2000onwards. The ongoing restitution
is bringing quite radical change about and the potential benefits of greater local control of
resources – whether by collective control through local government or ‘obst’ or through
individually-owned parcels – have yet to be evaluated. As long as poverty remains a serious
problem there is a danger that pressure to cut and degrade the forest will be stronger than a
sense of obligation over planting and rational management. But there are now more
effective conservation measures in place while traditional peasant values should not be
eroded completely, especially if more economic alternatives emerge and income from the
forest is not the crucial issue.


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