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DATE: October 21, 2019

SNIP: Forest ranger Liviu Pop was responding to a tip-off about illegal logging when he was shot dead with a hunting rifle this week.

He is the second Romanian forest ranger killed in just over a month, and the two deaths have heightened fears for the safety of those whose job it is to protect the forests of this eastern EU country.

Romania is home to more than half of Europe’s last remaining old-growth and primeval forests — valuable ecosystems home to bears, wolves, lynx, and wildcat.

There is considerable alarm at the levels of violence illegal loggers are willing to use in order to steal wood. That wood can end up anywhere across Europe, from furniture to paper or building materials.

Liviu Pop had gone out to investigate a possible case of illegal logging in a mountainous region of Maramures in north Romania when his colleagues became concerned.

They tried to reach him by phone but received no response, according to local media reports.

The body of the married father of three was found by police in a forest gorge on Wednesday night. An investigation has been opened but there are no suspects at this stage, case prosecutor, Bogdan Gabor, told the BBC.

Romania’s state-owned forest management company, Romsilva, which manages 48% of the country’s forests, strongly condemned the latest killing and cited alarming numbers of attacks against forestry workers who were trying to protect against “wood thieves”.

It has counted 16 attacks on its forestry workers this year alone.

The head of the Silva Trade Union Federation, Silviu Geana, complains that rangers are unable to defend themselves and six rangers have now lost their lives in recent years.

Romania’s forests are being chopped down at an alarming rate and the murder of forestry workers trying to protect the wilderness may do little to slow it down.

Research by Greenpeace Romania estimates that Romania is losing as much as three hectares of its total forest cover every hour as a result of degradation, illegal and legal logging — including swathes of its pristine old-growth forests.

“There is a lot at stake because Romania is home to the last, vast old-growth and primeval forest cover — but they are simply becoming chipboard for furniture,” Gabriel Paun said.