Dec. 3 - Romania's dwindling virgin forests have been thrown a lifeline with a new law protecting them from logging. The forests are among the oldest ecosystems in Europe, but have been decimated by the cash-strapped country since Communism fell more than a decade ago. Rob Muir reports.
The sound of chainsaws ripping through ancient virgin forests in Romania is nothing unusual. Since the fall of communism in 1990, most of the country's forests have come under private control with nothing to prevent logging on a large scale. As a result, vast tracts of ancient forest have been cut down But that's about to change. Conservation groups like Greenpeace aand the World Wildlife Fund have succeeded in pursuading the Romanian government to pass a law protecting the ancient forests that remain. The WWF"s Magor Csibi, says it's a first for Europe. SOUNDBITE: MAGOR CSIBI - WWF COUNTRY MANAGER, SAYING: "This wonderful virgin forest around us has been saved because lots of Romanians have been mobilised and have succeeded in putting pressure on the authorities. They have succeeded in convincing the authorities that we must care about this extraordinary asset Romania has. Romania is the first EU county to create a law putting all virgin forests under protection." Romania's forests are a haven for some of Europe's rarest animals like the lynx and wolf, and countless species of flora. The WWF is now helping the government identify the forest areas to be protected. Private owners will be compensated under the new law according to government spokesman Mugur Cozmanciuc. SOUNDBITE: MUGUR COZMANCIUC - STATE SECRETARY FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND FORESTS MINISTRY, SAYING: "Romania has over 260 thousand hectares of forest terraines classified as virgin forests. The Environment and Forest Ministry has issued a document, which will become law. This document is establishing criteria for virgin forests and will eventually register all these areas as strictly protected areas." For conservation groups the law is a major victory. They hope other nations where forests are disappearing will take note and enact laws of their own.