Timber inquiry has no deadline: fewer such investigations lately
March 19, 1998
By DANI DODGE and PAUL FATTIG
It’s unknown how long it will take for authorities to finish their investigation into an alleged timber theft conspiracy involving Burrill Timber Co. and Timberland Logging.
Jim Damitio, assistant regional special agent for the U.S. Forest Service, said he couldn’t predict how long the federal investigation would last. There is no statute of limitations in a conspiracy case, he said.
U.S. Forest Service investigators are sifting through records seized from the businesses and from homes and cars of employees.
“The next step is for the Forest Service to look at items seized and evaluate if there’s anything that would warrant a criminal case,” said Bud Fitzgerald, an assistant U.S. attorney in Eugene.
Investigators last week examined computer files and other documents at Burrill Timber in White City and Timberland Logging in Ashland. A Forest Service special agent said in an affidavit unsealed Monday that he suspects the two companies were involved in a conspiracy to steal timber and damage federal property (timber).
Stuart Foster, a Medford attorney who represents Burrill Timber, said the company complied with all contracts.
“I don’t know what the Forest Service is up to, but we fully and properly fulfilled the terms of those Burrill contracts,” he said.
Most of the allegations focused on the Jack Burns timber sale in the Rogue River National Forest near Crater Lake National Park.
Bob Ferreira, president of Timberland Logging, said, “We have been subpoenaed by the Forest Service in regards to an investigation. We intend to testify in response to that subpoena. In the interim, the subpoena says we are not to make any comments about it.”
Although federal officials report that timber theft investigations have dropped in conjunction with federal timber harvests in recent years, they say the Burrill investigation indicates they haven’t dropped their guard.
In fiscal year 1996, there were seven timber theft investigations on BLM land in Oregon and Washington. There was only one in fiscal year 1995. By comparison, there were 14 cases in fiscal year 1991 and 25 in fiscal year 1992.