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The Un-Natural Parks: New EIA Video Exposes Illegal and Unsustainable Origins of Schweighofer’s Timber

WASHINGTON, DC – A new video by the U.S.-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) shows that the largest timber processor in Romania, the Austrian company Holzindustrie Schweighofer (Schweighofer), continues to buy logs illegally cut from some of Romania’s most ecologically sensitive forests. This comes more than a year after EIA first exposed the company’s illegal sourcing.

In September 2016, EIA investigators tracked logging trucks delivering timber to Schweighofer’s sawmills back to the loading points listed on their officially registered transportation documents. One truck led investigators to the Putna-Vrancea Natural Park in central Romania. Near the listed loading site of the truck that delivered wood to Schweighofer just days earlier, EIA found serious illegal operations, including forest streams being used as logging roads, and a supposed “thinning” operation on a steep slope used instead for commercial timber harvesting.

“The harvesting practices found in this investigation are blatantly illegal and unsustainable,” said EIA Eurasia Programs Coordinator David Gehl. “More than one year after EIA’s first investigation, we found that Schweighofer is still profiting from the destruction of Romania’s precious forests.”

Romania’s natural parks are sensitive ecosystems, home to bears, lynx, wolves and many of Europe’s last old growth forests. Limited timber harvesting is allowed in designated areas within natural parks, provided that strict measures are taken to ensure the surrounding forests are not severely damaged.

Violations such as those recently found by EIA are systematic in Romania’s forests, and were well-documented in EIA’s 2015 report and in numerous government, media, and NGO reports over the past decade. Inadequate funding for law enforcement, coupled with pervasive local corruption and often inadequate forest management practices, has led to the degradation of Romania’s forests.

Schweighofer, the largest buyer of softwood in Romania, previously claimed to not source wood from natural parks and protected areas. The company retracted this claim in recent years, and instead narrowed its commitment to not source from only national parks. EIA’s investigation shows that the company is not only still actively buying from natural parks, but buying wood from areas and suppliers with extensive illegal and unsustainable logging practices.

On December 7, 2016, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) will conclude its year-long investigation into Schweighofer for allegations of sourcing illegal timber brought by EIA and others. The FSC’s investigation could lead to the company being disassociated from the FSC, including the termination of all its certificates.

“In just a few days in the forests that Schweighofer buys wood from, EIA easily identified numerous illegal and unsustainable logging practices,” said Gehl. “Schweighofer’s continuing failure to clean up its supply chain has serious impacts on the health and economic sustainability of Romania’s forests.”

EIA’s video released today is the second in a series showing that Schweighofer is still receiving illegal wood. The first video, Ghost Trucks, showed fake origins for logging trucks supplying to Schweighofer’s sawmills.

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Contact:

Maggie Dewane, EIA Press Officer, +1 202 483 6621, [email protected]