Romania: The Next Frontier

Romania is a rugged, complicated, beautiful place. Its ancient traditions rally in defiant opposition of a blossoming global economy, while the natural landscapes sit steadfast and majestically in peaceful protest of modernization. Here, at the crossroads of globalism and frontier, is where change is taking place.

We arrived in Romania to document the work being done by Foundation Conservation Carpathia (FCC), a local organization dedicated to conserving a vulnerable section of Romania’s vast Carpathian Mountain Range. Created by German-Austrian couple Christoph and Barbara Promberger, their short term goal is to create Europe’s first Wilderness Reserve for the protection of large carnivores in the Fagaras area. Their long term goal: A brand new national park, Fagaras National Park, Europe’s largest forested national park.

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The author, FCC Ranger Liviu Bulgaru, and Dan Dinu, photographer, overlooking the valley of the Iezer Lake. Andreea is wearing the Jetlite Crop Pant.

For over a decade they have been buying up forested lands, restoring 1,500 acres of completely destroyed forest, protecting wildlife, and creating an infrastructure for ecotourism. They work closely with local communities to ensure that conservation is mutually beneficial. Like the vast network of trails crisscrossing the Carpathians, the path to protection has been steep, winding and complex. But with each victory FCC establishes a new precedent that inspires more people to get involved and see the immense benefits of protected public land.

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Inside one of the bear hides built by the FCC as part of their ecotourism infrastructure in nearby Piatra Craiului National Park. Justin is wearing the Mission Ridge Lean Pant.

In early June we wandered into one of the FCC’s recent acquisitions accompanied by Liviu Bulgaru, a charismatic FCC ranger who knows every twist and turn of the steep, rugged Iezer Mountainside. Patches of snow dotted a pristine valley where the only trace of humans were the worn trails and a sturdy refuge. We were there to witness an early bloom of rhododendron which, due to changes in climate, have started to appear earlier every year. This year, the flowers peeked through snow. Surrounding us were trees, meadows, ridge lines, and an eerily quiet atmosphere. Nothing but wilderness, and a few witnesses to bear it.

After sunset we descended to a local village to deliver a fallen sheep to its shepherds. (Nothing goes to waste in this rugged heartland – even after the wolves have eaten, the shepherds will salvage the rest for pastrami.) The shepherds were young, soft spoken, and unfazed. Surrounded by twelve large, barking dogs, they took the sheep and casually mentioned they’d seen the wolf pack attack. Live and let live.

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This type of rhododendron comes out in late June or July, coloring the high meadows of the Southern Carpathians.

 

Up in the mountains, surrounded by clouds, a refreshingly uncomplicated world still exists. The line between human and wild, home and wilderness, continues to blur. It relies on an innate respect that each member shows to one another – human and beast alike. We’ll continue to monitor the work of Foundation Conservation Carpathian and the status of this incredible place.

Conservation Atlas is a 501(c)(3), US-based nonprofit started in 2017 by Andreea & Justin Lotak. Conservation Atlas aims to raise awareness of global conservation causes by appealing to intrepid travelers. Through leading online resources and annual international festivals, CA inspires people to visit unique places and support the mission of grassroots organizations. Through 2018, The Lotaks are touring 14 countries to document successful conservation projects, meet the people who are making these positive changes, and photograph beautiful landscapes and biodiversity.