Romania's forests under mounting threat—along with rangers | 4/28/2015 | Staff
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Like thick wrinkles, a multitude of dirt roads cut through barren slopes in Romania's mountainous Valea Rea region, showing the impact of aggressive illegal logging—which is not just threatening its rare forests but human life too.

In a recent escalation of violence, two rangers were killed within a month of each other in different parts of the country while trying to stop alleged timber thieves.

Tragedies - Thousands - Romanians - Hundreds - Rangers

The latest tragedies have brought thousands of Romanians, including hundreds of rangers, into the streets to demand the government does more to protect the forests and their guardians.

Environmental groups say Romania's woodlands, home to some of the last virgin forests in Europe and diverse wildlife species, are under threat. Greenpeace estimates that up to 20 million cubic metres of wood (700 million cubic feet) are illegally harvested each year.

Company - Holzindustrie - Schweighofer - Timber - Sector

Dominated by the Austrian company Holzindustrie Schweighofer, the timber sector is estimated to be worth more than six billion euros ($6.6 billion) in the EU member country, where forests cover some seven million hectares (17,300 acres), or almost a third of the country.

'Very dangerous job'

Mountains - Foothills - Rangers - Threats - Violence

But logging has disfigured many mountains and foothills, and rangers face threats and violence.

In October, a 30-year-old ranger in Maramures county in northern Romania was found dead with a bullet wound in his back, shortly after the father-of-three made a phone call to say he caught three people illegally cutting trees.

Month - Colleague - Iasi - County - Northeast

A month earlier, his 50-year-old colleague from Iasi county in the northeast was beaten to death with an axe. A 17-year-old has been arrested for murder.

Romsilva, the state company that manages the public forests, says 185 rangers have been hurt since 2014.

Dozen - Rangers - AFP - Duty

A dozen rangers interviewed by AFP say they have been beaten, chased or threatened while on duty at least once.

The average monthly wage of a ranger is just 2,000 lei (420 euros, $460), they...
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