Lately, in Romania there have been regrettable events in which several rangers or other categories of forestry personnel have died trying to do their job in the face of loggers or poachers. Foundation Carpathia Conservation, as an environmental organization and partner of the Carpathia Forest District (the administrator of the forest areas owned by FCC and custodian of the hunting grounds in the Făgăraș Mountains), wants to send an alarm signal to the state institutions in relation to the vulnerability of the system in which the lives of the rangers is endangered.
Current situation of the forest guards
Nowadays, the forest rangers with control duties, unlike other categories of agents that detect felonies and contraventions, need to check in isolated areas situations like stealing wood or poaching acts. These are often far from villages, in areas without telephone networks or other means of rapid communication. Also, there are numerous cases when the detection of these illegal activities is done by a single person, without witnesses.
During this time, the perpetrators are organized into groups of two or more persons. Those involved in the thefts are very much aware of the serious consequences of the acts committed, and the repercussions that these, once brought to justice, can have on the freedom and the financial situation of the guilty, which makes these people extremely dangerous in certain cases. Often, the rangers are being endangered and the integrity of their families and their material goods are permanently threatened.
Legislative framework on arms and ammunition
The rigors of gun and ammunition legislation have implications if forestry personnel use a weapon in self-defence or in an attempt to stop a crime, even when the subject is not injured. Thus, in the case of weapon use, the investigation of such a case may take more than a year, during which time the ranger must continue his activities unarmed. Often, the contraventions return from justice unsolved, without consequences for the perpetrators. A statistic at national level regarding the percentage of the solved cases, with people responsible for actions taken to justice, would be welcome for a better and more correct picture of the actual situation.
We are one of the richest countries in Europe from a natural point of view; we are proud to have the last forests of high natural value in Europe; we owe it to protect, to care for, and to preserve them for future generations. We have a moral duty to our ancestors and, at the same time, to our descendants, a duty whose fulfilment is conditional on a sustainable system of managing these forests. Respect for nature and people is based on safety. We need to lay the foundation for a system in which forests can be safely preserved and guarded by both rangers and other members of the communities in the vicinity of forests.
Dramatic cases, such as those that occurred recently, can be prevented by a reformation of the status of the rangers and the system in which it operates through:
1. Improved enforcement rules and procedures for gun and ammunition legislation as well as for weapon use.
2. The obligation of planning and carrying out guard actions of forests and hunting grounds by the institutions subordinated to the Ministry of Defence in collaboration with the Forest Districts, based on a mapping of the potentially dangerous areas. Collaboration with these institutions is already successful in many locations.
3. Clarifying in detail the statute of forestry personnel, in particular, regarding the investment with the exercise of public authority in carrying out guard actions of the forestry fund and hunting funds.
4. Clearly define the facts provided by the legislation as forestry and hunting offenses / hunting offenses as facts of a particular social danger.
5. Implement mechanisms to reduce the pressure on forests, especially in poor communities (job opportunities, firewood and construction).
6. Public awareness actions.
7. Improvement of the forest protection regulation, creation of regulations for hunting fund protection, documents providing for the minimum modern equipment necessary for forestry personnel, the patrol mode with the promotion of carrying out guard actions in teams and mixed teams with the participation of the Police and Gendarmerie.
The recent pro vote of the parliamentary commission for equipping the rangers is a first step that gives us confidence in the opening up of the authorities to the modification of the legislative provisions. While we wait for the decision of the Chamber of Deputies, we hope that the forestry profession will obtain the appropriate status and working conditions.