Logger, Forest Service official discuss timber dispute

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 2B
Last Modified: Wednesday, Jul. 18, 2012 - 6:25 am

An hourlong meeting Monday between Randy Pew, a Plumas County logger, and Randy Moore, regional forester for the U.S. Forest Service, resulted in no specific solutions.

Both, however, said the conference was productive toward resolving their dispute over logs Pew removed from federal lands burned in the 2007 Moonlight fire.

"I have some hope. At least they were willing to listen," Pew said.

He has charged the Forest Service with "grossly erroneous estimates" of the quantity and quality of the material he harvested from the Moonlight blaze over the last three years.

The estimates, "off by thousands of truckloads of logs," forced him to spend more time covering a much greater area to harvest enough merchantable timber to meet his sales commitment to a local sawmill, Pew said.

He has filed a $375,725 claim with the Forest Service for partial damages and plans to file another one claiming an additional $1 million in damages.

The federal agency has denied his claim. Responsibility for evaluating the quantity and condition of timber in a Forest Service sale rests with the logger, said Laurence Crabtree, deputy supervisor of the Plumas National Forest.

That leaves Pew facing bankruptcy, he said. If his company goes down, it will take 30 local jobs with it.

Moore is concerned about the effect of the dispute on both Pew and the Indian Valley community, said John Heil, a regional spokesman for the Forest Service in Vallejo.

The agency is looking at further opportunities for Pew to work on national forest land, Heil said.

"We are taking his concerns very seriously," he said.

Pew said his ultimate goal is to survive this crisis, hire back his crew of local loggers and continue the business he has operated for 34 years and now shares with his son, Jared.

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