Plumas County logger loses fight over timber salvage

Published: Saturday, Mar. 17, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 3B
Last Modified: Wednesday, Jul. 18, 2012 - 6:25 am

GREENVILLE – A federal judge has decided in favor of the U.S. Forest Service in a dispute over fire-damaged timber volumes with Randy Pew, owner of a Plumas County logging company.

Joseph A. Vergilio, a judge with the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals, denied Pew's claim that the Forest Service provided "grossly erroneous estimates" of the charred logs he harvested from the area burned in the 2007 Moonlight fire.

Pew said the agency overestimated the volume of merchantable logs by as much as 90 percent. On the Moonlight sale, Pew said, he relied on the valid estimates the Forest Service has made during his 34 years of purchasing green and fire-damaged trees from the Plumas and other national forests in California.

In his three-page decision released Friday, Vergilio said the agency guaranteed "neither the quantity nor quality or merchantability of the timber" estimated in the contract Pew signed. Pew's reliance on the accuracy of previous Forest Service volume and species estimates is "not reasonable" given the disclaimers included in the contract, the judge said.

Pew entered the dispute resolution process after an agency contracting officer denied his claim for $375,725 for partial damages stemming from the Moonlight fire timber sale.

In January a meeting with Regional Forester Randy Moore left him optimistic that he could reach a settlement with the Forest Service.

"I thought the judge would offer some compromise. It didn't happen," he said.

Pew, whose company is the largest private employer in Indian Valley, said the decision leaves him on the brink of bankruptcy. He has enough timber sales under contract to keep his crew of around 30 employees working for several months, he said.

He has filed another claim seeking several million dollars in damages for helicopter logging sales that required many months of operations covering twice the ground initially expected.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Jane Braxton Little



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