Kilkis: Forestry at the border has increased – Poaching or logging is a wound

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“Open wound»Remains the poaching in the mountain range of Krousia and Beles, in the prefecture Kilkis στα Greek-Bulgarian border, with the cases of illegal action of the scouts that occur from time to time, to be recorded ten times more than those who are finally arrested and take the path of justice.

This was stated by the forester of Kilkis, George Vroutsas, speaking to APE-MPE, adding that in the last 10 years, the direct value of illegally harvested products exceeds one million euros and the indirect damage to forest ecosystems, exceeds 300,000 euros.

In the last 10 years 2011-2021, a total of 838 lawsuits for illegal logging were filed by the Kilkis Forest Service and 3,415.29 km of firewood, 12 km of round timber, 185 chainsaws and 144 vehicles were confiscated. Based on the table provided to APE-MPE by Mr. Vroutsas, during the 10 years, three-digit smuggling lawsuits were filed by the Kilkis Forest Service in 2012, when they amounted to 128 and in 2015 to 119, while in 2018 they amounted to 75, in 2019 to 65, in 2020 at 49 and in 2021 at 40.

The encouraging element, according to him, to ensure the protection of forest ecosystems and to tackle illegal poaching, is to attract young foresters to the profession. “In the last 10 years, the profession of foresters has become 64% richer in human resources and in fact 36.57% have entered the industry in the last five years, with 50% of them being 20-40 years old,” he explained.

The foresters have increased

In the area of ​​responsibility of the Kilkis Forest Service, the forests managed for the production of wood products, cover an area of ​​319,410 acres, with the forest stock of 1,414,999 m3 and the annual increase of 60,231 m3. According to Mr. Vroutsas, the job offer to foresters has been on the rise in recent years and so from 132 active members in 2009, they reached 385 members in 2019 and the active and identified foresters in PE. Kilkis amounted to 412 people in 2020, “a number that ranks P.E. Kilkis in third place nationwide, after P.E. Pella and P.E. Drama “, he underlined.

According to Mr. Vroutsas, the reason for the increase in foresters is the pre-existing unemployment that led many to seek a new career path. The foresters, as he stressed, receive a decent salary and contribute significantly to the protection of Greek forests. In this context, the state proposed to prepare training seminars and other related programs for foresters, while for the further increase of their number, the provision of financial incentives will contribute significantly.

The scourge of poaching … holds up well

Illegal logging, which according to the forester of Kilkis is a timeless and intense phenomenon on the Greek-Bulgarian border, is done in part by some villagers who want to provide firewood for their heating needs but mainly by skilled timber smugglers. Sometimes they show an increase and sometimes a recession, according to him, and in addition to the factor “demand”, which plays a dominant role, the frequency is related to the capabilities and means (vehicles, remuneration) that forest officials have for the whole year. “, He underlined.

According to him, the large volume of poaching is done by local smugglers, who for this purpose use mainly foreigners “who are determined for everything”, clarified Mr. Vroutsas and added that they work mainly on holidays and at night in various parts of the forests. , many times and in remote places. “During the night logging, they use special lenses, while they also use eyeliners to monitor the movements of the forestry vehicles”, noted Mr. Vroutsas. He added that “when they realize the presence of forest authorities, they flee in unknown directions so as not to be arrested, the chainsaws are confiscated and the identity of their commanders is revealed”.

In fact, according to him, for the transport of illegal products, traditional small tractors and large trucks are used, which perform special and secret routes.

“The cat game with the mouse”

Forest officials and poachers “play the game of cat and mouse”, stressed Mr. Vroutsas and added, “we work mainly at night, under adverse conditions and regardless of day”.

In fact, because the movement of forestry vehicles in the forest at night can be perceived from long distances, forest officials, regardless of weather conditions, do not hesitate to travel up to 20 kilometers on foot to reach the place where poachers operate .. In fact, they are not the times they camp in the countryside, waiting for the right moment to … strike at the root of poaching and to “catch the cunning ones before they flee”, Mr. Vroutsas pointed out. Referring to cases whenever the forest officials of the service of the prefecture of Kilkis acted against poaching, Mr. Vroutsas recalls: “There was information about illegal night logging. A workshop with four employees, among them two women foresters, organizes a patrol from 10 pm. The approach so that we are not perceived was organized in a distant place. Specifically, at a distance of 10 kilometers. When it was heard around 12 midnight that the chainsaw was working, the careful approach began. After an hour of walking nearby, we saw two lenses adapted to people moving up and down and the chainsaws working. Reaching a breathing distance, we caught two locals in the leech, while they were loading the illegal wood in a truck. “The wood and the vehicle were confiscated, while a lawsuit was filed,” he recalls.

In another incident, Mr. Vroutsas recalls that officials of the Kilkis forest department had located damage to a forest. “Because there were eyelashes, it was decided to approach on foot, Sunday morning. Four forest officials and the forester walked through the forest for five hours and about 20 kilometers, until we finally located three foreigners of Albanian origin with a tractor and a platform of a well-known smuggler in the area, who were illegally logging. “We approached them, but as soon as they realized us, they fled, abandoning the tractor and the illegal wood that were confiscated,” he described.

However, “there are cases where the risk for forest officials is huge,” said Mr. Vroutsas, citing one in which forest officials got in front of a tractor loaded with illegal wood that was heading to a nearby village and “the two foreigners who they drove, abandoned it on the move, and fled. “Fortunately, the tractor stopped,” he stressed.

According to Mr. Vroutsas, the ways to deal with illegal poaching are the frequent presence of forest officials where the phenomenon is located, ie in the forests, with appropriate vehicles and sufficient credits. According to him, the state needs to provide sufficient quantities of firewood in the forested villages, “a fact that will make their inhabitants guardians and protectors of the forests”, he noted.

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