The story of identifying and protecting Virgin and Quasi-virgin Forests (Old Growth Forests) began in 1986 when the concept first appeared in national forestry norms as virgin and "quasi-virgin forests". WWF has been involved in this process since 2011 through the "Save the Virgin Forests" campaign. Romania assumes the responsibility to protect its Old Growth Forests (OGF), but the process has faced two constant challenges: (1) a lack of clarity on what OGFs are, partly also due to evolving views, and (2) not knowing where these OGFs are.


Forestry Norms

1986 - Forestry Norms

the academic environment draws attention to their importance

formal recognition of Old Growth Forests (OGF) importance

functional category 1-5J

no clear identification criteria

no strict protection regime


Forestry Norms

2000 - Forestry Norms

same functional system

thousands of hectares are already preserved

the academic environment draws attention to the importance

still no clear identification criteria

increasing the risks in light of the chaotic restitution process



2005 - PINMATRA Study

detailed identification criteria and indicators;

performed using centralized ICAS database on all FMPs

designed to support the designation process of Natura 2000 sites (> 80% became part of the Nature 2000)

preliminary assessment – the study is more a kind of desktop research

final results are not formally approved by the ICAS scientific council;

results are not fully and transparently published

decision makers are not informed


HCV concept

2010 - HCV concept

criteria and indicators harmonized with the PINMATRA ones

thousand of ha are protected on a voluntary basis through FSC® certification

> 3000 only in WWF PCAs

voluntary mechanism

there are few FSC® certified areas


WWF Campaign

2011 - WWF Campaign

petition signed by 100.000 people in a month

CA assumes to amend the Forestry Norms to ensure their protection

MoU for establishing the National Catalogue of Virgin and Cvasivirgin Forests – as an evidence and management tool to protect OGF

 As the OGF were not clearly identified, the only chance to speed up the process was to make it more transparent and participatory – to allow interested stakeholders to bring their contribution


Protection Status
MO 3397

2012 - Protection Status – MO 3397

Participatory and transparent process for setting up the identification criteria

Strict protection regime is enforced

Criteria and indicators harmonized with PINMATRA

FMP revision is the only way to ensure OGF protection

A moratorium is established for PINMATRA areas – but only for those with a production role (15%)

PINMATRA results are is not officially published – moratorium cannot be applied

NO functional compensatory mechanism for private owners


Carpathian Convention

2014 - Carpathian Convention

identification criteria are established for virgin forests

 they were developed by groups of experts

 they were finally assumed by the official representatives of the Carpathian countries

 they were very much in line with the Romanian legislation provisions

does not have legal levers to speed up the process in Romania


Forestry Code

2015 - Forestry Code

The protection of virgin forests is strengthened by law provisions

Imposes the establishment of the National Catalog as a tool for evidence and management of virgin and quasi-virgin forests

The legal procedures, to make the process more transparent and dynamic, must wait for the elaboration of a Ministerial Order


National Catalog V1 MO 1467


the PINPATRA results are officially published by CA

the moratorium procedures can be formally implemented (relevant only for 15%);

forest management design entities can start considering the PINMATRA results

a national Working Group is formed to develop the National Catalogue’s procedures (NGOs, ICAS, CA, Forest universities, Forest Administrator, Experts).

the 1st version of the National Catalog of is published – MO 1417

 the MO provisions have loopholes that could undermine its scope

 the normative act is rebuilt


National Catalog
MO 2525


new participatory and transparent approach – anyone can practically get involved

2 moratoriums are established  (all PINMATRA & any formally submitted studies)

new clarifications for identification criteria (based from the ones approved by Carpathian Convention)

the necessary procedures are quite complex

the process is progressing very slowly

low capacity of CA for a proper implementation

still NO functional compensatory mechanism for private owners


1st attempt
CA study on OGF


pre-assessment of over 300,000 ha of potential OGF is coordinated by CA

participatory and transparent process

public consultation for potential OGF identification – areas to be included for field evaluations – coordinated by CA

public tender for the OGF identification is launched

no one participates in the auction

procedures to ensure protection of the already identified OGF are progressing very slowly



2020 - Guideline

clarifying procedures aiming to have a harmonized implementation

transparent and participatory process

cannot be clarified all the terms and procedures – it’s finally a matter of assumption

COVID context slow down the process


identification studies


transparent and participatory process

public consultation for identification of potential OGF areas to be included under the scope of the study (40,000 ha)

moratorium to put on hold any harvesting authorization

teams of specialists

according to the ToRs, the process will last for at least one year


EU Biodiversity Strategy

2020 EU

 The European Biodiversity Strategy is published, stating that OGFs are strictly protected throughout Europe

     OGFs are part of the 10% strict protection target

 There are still no clear definition and criteria for identifying them

PNRR does not include resources for identifying potential areas to be included in the 10% strict protection regime, including OGFs


identification studies


 The results of field evaluations, based on the criteria and national indicators, are operated in the Catalogue

 More than 26 thousand hectares are introduced

The catalog includes 70,069 ha

 Apart from WWF, there are no entities really concerned with following the procedures for establishing strict protection for the identified virgin or quasivirgin forests





 Romania undertakes the 10%, respectively 30% objectives and the protection of OGF

 Following WWF’s proposal, the PNRR includes resources for identifying potential areas for 10% strict protection, including OGF

 The European Commission delays finalizing the Guidelines for OGF

March 2023

2023 Martie

 The European Commission’s guide that defines and sets the identification criteria of OGF is published

 The guide is very general – it leaves room for opposed interpretations

     A regionally harmonized approach is recommended to further develop the national methodologies

May 2023

National Catalog
MO 2525


 The area identified and included in the catalog reaches 72279.43 ha

September 2023

10% Strict protection identification (including the OGF)


 An independent expert consortium is selected to identify the 10% strict protection areas, including OGF

 The methodology and criteria proposed by WWF are taken into account

 The deadline set for 2025 Q4

October 2023

Carpathian Convention

2014 - Carpathian Convention

Setting criteria and indicators for cvasivirgin forests at Carpathian Convention level

 It does not bring new elements at national level

November 2023


 The first draft of the methodology to identify the OGF is developed by the consortium

 The criteria and indicators do not bring much clarity compared to those elaborated at the EU level

2024 - present


 In the absence of a public debate, WWF reiterates the proposals for the 10% strict protection areas

 Only a few EU countries have assumed clear objectives regarding the designation of 10% strict protection areas and the protection of OGF

Criteria and indicators to identify Virgin and Cvasivirgin Forests (Old Growth Forests) in Romania

Definition: The virgin forest is the forest which was formed and developed exclusively under the action of natural factors and in which the ecosystem processes in their dynamics occur without any direct or indirect anthropic influence.