By Adriana Trocea, World Wildlife Fund

There’s probably no better season to enjoy forests in Romania than Autumn. Hop on a train and, no matter where you are, you’ll soon pass by a forest dressed in the warmest colours. What a show! And now imagine your world without these colourful moments. 

What’s in a name?

The truth is that so many forests, some you pass during your daily commute, the ones by rivers, on hilltops and near communities, are not considered forests. What’s in a name, as the poet would say. Well, in this case, what we choose to call them defines how they are taken care of, how they are protected. Long story short, as long as they are not officially called forests, these forests are not protected.

How is this possible? Well, where you see a forest – trees, bears, flowers, berries, mushrooms, fresh air, birds chirping, trails and beauty – others see just timber. Just land. Just resources waiting to be depleted. And when you reduce a forest to a component, you stop seeing it as a forest. 

In Romania, over 500,000 hectares of forests are not recognised as forests. What does this mean? Some see 150 million Euros worth of timber, others 5 billion Euros worth of planting trees (and if we were to take on such a task, we would honestly need 500 years to complete it). No one ever added up the numbers for what these forests are worth when it comes to shelter, flood protection, culture and leisure services. And no one can put a price on the beauty of Autumn leaves. 

What makes a forest so valuable?

All forests are priceless and, even some that are not yet officially called forests. And out of the total 7 million hectares of forest in Romania, at least 10% are incredibly precious because they shelter species that are highly threatened with extinction and play a critical role in protecting the local communities. There are over 700,000 hectares of forest, which the specialists call high conservation value forests. “Of these, WWF has identified over 32,500 hectares so far, but we want to do a lot more. For great results we need all of us, ” says Radu Melu, national coordinator of the Forest Department at WWF Romania.

WWF’s “Together, we save Romania’s priceless forests” campaign aims to protect these from irresponsible logging. This doesn’t mean there will be no cutting, because sustainable forest management doesn’t mean you can’t use or cut trees. It means that WWF wants people and forest owners in particular to remember to see forests. Never just timber or land.

“If 20,000 people get involved, we will be able to protect the first area. We will evaluate in our project areas 100 hectares of forest where we will identify the high conservation values ​​and will implement the procedures and formalities necessary for protection” adds Melu. After identifying the values ​​of this forest, for them to be protected in the long term, any kind of work that could harm them will be prohibited. In addition, WWF experts will ensure, by contributing resources and technical knowledge, that locals will continue to benefit from the ecosystem services offered by these valuable forests.

The first 100 hectares thus protected will be an example and will pave the way for saving all over 700,000 hectares of high conservation value forests. “We will apply the same model to save the rest of the high conservation value forests, by satellite identifying the forests that represent rare ecosystems, going to the field to validate these areas and ensuring that all the necessary procedures are applied”, concludes Radu Melu.

There’s probably no better season to enjoy forests in Romania and definitely no better season to protect them. You can also get involved by sending an SMS with the word “PANDA” at 8844, you donate 2 euros a month*. 

*The value of each donation is 2 euros per month. The sum that goes to the cause is 2 euros. No VAT will be added for mobile subscriptions. For prepay numbers in Digi Mobil, Orange and Telekom Romania Mobile, the VAT has already been paid when adding credit to your phone card. For prepay numbers in Vodafone, users do not pay VAT. You can stop the donation at any time with an sms  with the word “STOP” sent to 8844. Campaign powered by Digi Mobil, Orange Romania, Telekom Mobil and Vodafone Romania. More information: +40213174996 and wwf.ro/ajutapadurea

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