Europe's Last Virgin Forest Under Siege By Loggers

Europe's Last Virgin Forest Under Siege By Loggers

A new report by a major environmental advocacy group said Monday that Romania, home to Europe's last unlogged timber forest, is also the country experiencing the most illegal logging.

"In terms of biodiversity, in terms of size, in terms of forest intact landscapes," the country has the most important forests in Europe said Alexander von Bismarck, director of the US branch of the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).

Yet the country "has the most acute problem of illegal logging today in Europe", he warned.

The virgin woodlands of Romania are home to more large mammals than all the other European states combined, except from Russia. Rare animals which live in its pristine forests include brown bear, lynx and wolves.

Romanian authorities reported that some 2.8 billion cubic feet of wood was illegally logged in the past 20 years.

The EIA found that the Austrian wood products company Holzindustrie Schweighofer was "willingly and knowingly accepting illegally harvested timber".

The environmental group presented hidden camera footage which showed Romanian Schweighofer officials conducting purchases of illegally harvested timber and even promising bonuses to the seller.

"It might seem unspectacular but it is the root of illegal logging... And the deals are made and the laws are broken and communities have their forests stolen," Von Bismarck said.

Holzindustrie Schweighofer, which has annual revenue of $511 million in 2013, has denied the charges.

The company claims, despite the direct evidence to the contrary, that it "respects the laws" and will "launch an internal investigation" following the broadcasting of the video.

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