Chainsaws & Tree Huggers in the Land of Fairy Tales

Workers from the Strâmbu-Băiuț Forest Management Unit harvesting FSC-certified beech. All photos ©James Morgan / WWF

Sacred forest

“If you want a confession, I found God and His creation, pure nature, in the old growth forest. And at that moment I decided I had to do everything possible to protect it so my children could see it for real, not just in books and museums.”

Radu Vlad, Forest & Regional Project Co-ordinator, WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme.

Land of wood

The Maramureș Village Museum in Sighet, which opened in 1981, contains over 30 traditional wooden houses brought in pieces from across the county and reassembled.

A traditional house in Sighet Village Museum made from 17th century oak,
part of the Ethnographic Museum of Maramureș. Romania.

Fall from grace

“Communism was a golden age for forest management in Romania — good principles for the time, strict legislation and enforcement! If a forester used a log for firewood that could be sawn, or sent a log to the sawmill that could be used for veneer, he went to gaol accused of wasting the country’s resources”, says Radu.

Mission forest

“I’m not the first forester in my family — it’s a tradition. I don’t think my daughter will want to study forestry but I never wanted to do anything else! Usually Mondays and Tuesdays are in the office but the rest of the week, I try to be in the field.”

Workers from the Strâmbu-Băiuț Forest Management Unit at their HQ. The forest is state-owned and managed by Romsilva, the state Forest Directorate and the Forest Management Unit.

First cut

Parcel 69A near Poiana Botizii, managed by the Strâmbu-Băiuț Forest Management Unit, is one of several in Maramureș supervised by Iacob and the Forest Directorate.

Workers from the Strâmbu-Băiuț Forest Management Unit harvesting FSC-certified beech trees.

Forests for all forever

Relentlessly promoting responsible forest management is central to WWF’s approach, not just in Romania but across the whole Carpathian region. And with a strapline of ‘Forests For All Forever’, FSC certification has been a key tool, helping ensure forest companies meet high social and environmental standards.

Worker from the Strâmbu-Băiuț Forest Management Unit harvesting FSC-certified beech.

Waste not, want not

“We produce something that can be used by the whole world — a solid wooden chair.”

The Plimob furniture factory in Sarasău makes millions of chairs for IKEA every year, Sighetu Marmației, Maramureș, Romania.

Market transformation

When WWF began to promote voluntary uptake of FSC certification in Romania, Radu knew that without market demand for sustainability, it would not fly. IKEA’s role has been crucial. Its ambitious commitment to obtaining all timber from more sustainable sources (FSC certified or recycled) by 2020 has driven uptake of FSC globally. And in Romania, where IKEA has already met the target, it’s shaped both conservation and forestry practice in a country from which the retailer sources 5 per cent of all its timber.

Outstanding universal value

On a technical level, it’s a natural forest made up of trees at all stages of growth from seedlings to mature examples (450 years for fir and 550 for beech) as well as lying and standing dead wood. All trees must be native species and the result of natural regeneration, and there must be a near absence of human intervention. For listing in the National Catalogue of Romanian Virgin Forests, there’s a limit of fewer than five trees felled per hectare of forest, which is judged to be insignificant enough not to affect the natural dynamics of the forest.

National security

Alongside promoting FSC and protecting old growth forest, WWF’s long-running campaign has also focused on preventing illegal logging through a timber tracking system. This is now enshrined in national legislation that places illegal logging on a par with terrorism and war as a threat to national security.

Life on the edge

Ioan Mât and his wife Rodica live in a tiny hamlet a few kilometres up a rough mountain track from Viseu de Sus. They have a cow, two horses and cart, and bought their house from Ioan’s grandfather who built it and who’s buried on the steep hillside a stone’s throw away. They’ve lived here all their lives.

Rodica and Ioan Mâț at home in Viseu de Sus, Maramureș, Romania. Community access to firewood can be a contentious issue in the area.

Land of the free

Maramureș wider landscape is a bucolic mosaic of forest, grassland, wetland and pasture shaped by centuries of human activity. It’s easy to romanticise this seeming idyllic throwback to medieval times but for the families that work the land by hand, scything hay and tossing it with pitchforks on to rough-hewn wooden racks to dry, the reality of life is hard. Nevertheless, interdependence with the land and the forest has existed for millennia and part of what makes the region of major cultural importance.

Saint Parascheva Wooden Church in Desești, Maramureș, declared a UNESCO monument in 1999.

Kindergarten for trees

The Directorate’s nursery in Gutin is a kindergarten for trees, a small paradise on a sunny hillside.

Students from Transylvania University of Brasov, Faculty of Silviculture and Forest Engineering, learn about forestry management in Gutin, Maramureș, Romania.

For the common good

“FSC’s strength is its transparency and the huge chance it gives society to participate in change and play a constructive role in sustainability. It’s up to us to get everyone involved, change mindsets and build a better future!”, says Radu.

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