Greenville logger optimistic after Forest Service meeting
Greenville logger Randy Pew said he was upbeat after the latest round of talks with the U.S. Forest Service.
“I think we had a very good meeting,” said Pew, owner of Pew Forest Products. “It was the first time I didn’t feel like we had to go to war to try to justify our position.”
Pew was referring to a Monday, Jan. 9, meeting in Vallejo with Regional Forester Randy Moore.
The meeting was to discuss Pew’s claim that his company lost more than a million dollars trying to log charred trees left behind from the 2007 Moonlight Fire.
Pew, who said he trusted the Forest Service estimates of harvestable timber, was the only bidder for the salvage operation on the Forest Service land.
“When we left the meeting, we felt the Forest Service realized they might have made a mistake,” Pew said. “Randy Moore said he’s not in a position to write a check, but he’s going to help us try to find ways to make up our losses. He said he would do everything he could to expedite the process.”
The process involves Pew filing an appeal with the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals. The board hears and decides contract disputes between government contractors and executive agencies.
Pew said he also plans to file another claim with the Forest Service contract officer for the helicopter portion of the salvage operation. He said the claim would be “much more” than the $375,725 the Forest Service rejected in October.
Pew, who said he couldn’t afford to hire an attorney, has been getting help from forestry consultant Bill Wickman. Wickman retired from the Forest Service in 2002 after 32 years with the agency.
Wickman joined Pew and Pew’s son Jared for the Jan. 9 meeting with the Forest Service. The meeting also included Plumas County Supervisor Robert Meacher, Tim Holibird from Congressman Tom McClintock’s staff and Plumas National Forest Deputy Supervisor Laurence Crabtree.
Wickman, who helped Pew draft a rebuttal to the Forest Services’ Dec. 16 cruise review, agreed that the meeting was productive.
“I think it’s important that folks know that these Forest Service individuals and Pew Forest Products have had a very open and amicable working relationship in dealing with this matter,” Wickman said. “When we finished the meeting, I personally felt that Mr. Moore and his staff had provided some sort of relief for Pew Forest Products.
“Randy will still have to follow established procedures with the Civilian Court of Appeals. But there is more hope than before our meeting.”
Crabtree, who has been the Forest Service’s point person in charge of the Pew dispute, commended the Forest Service staff for their professionalism in the face of public scrutiny and criticism.
In an email to Forest Service staffers, Crabtree wrote “We want you to know that for us, it’s more important to go forward exploring options for solution — i.e. what is right to do, and move away from who is right.”
When asked if he sees a resolution to the dispute, Crabtree said, “You can say I’m cautiously optimistic. I’m pleased the way the process is going.”
Pew has been seeking money from the Forest Service to help cover his losses. He said without a government refund, his company — which employs about 30 people — will go out of business and he will be bankrupt.
Pew has insisted the Forest Service overestimated the amount of timber available in the salvage operation, named the Cairn Sale. The Forest Service said its estimates were accurate, and that it was contractually Pew’s responsibility to verify the harvestable timber.
The Forest Service review that was released Dec. 16 found that its original 2008 cruise estimates were within its established margin of error.