The effectiveness of protected areas can diminish during times of pronounced socio-economic and institutional change. Our goals were to assess the effectiveness of Romanian protected areas at stemming unsanctioned logging, and to assess post-socialist logging in their surrounding landscapes, during a time of massive socio-economic and institutional change. Our results suggest that forest cover remained fairly stable shortly before and after 1990, but forest disturbance rates increased sharply in two waves after 1995 and 2005. We found substantial disturbances inside protected areas, even within core reserve areas. Moreover, disturbances in the matrix surrounding protected areas were even lower than inside protected area boundaries. We suggest that these rates are largely the result of high logging rates, triggered by rapid ownership and institutional changes. These trends compromise the goals of Romania’s protected area network, lead to an increasing loss of forest habitat, and more isolated and more fragmented protected areas. The effectiveness of Romania’s protected area network in terms of its ability to safeguard biodiversity is therefore most likely decreasing.