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W.Va. officials suspend embattled logger’s license

Jul. 17, 2013 @ 03:52 PM

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — State forestry officials have suspended the license of a logger who is accused of using a government-funded contract to clear a park after a storm to cut trees for profit.

Jeremy Jones, of the state Division of Forestry, told members of the Kanawha County Parks and Recreation Commission on Wednesday that the agency suspended the license of David Bowen until he mitigates the damage from the unauthorized cut at Coonskin Park in Kanawha County, media outlets reported.

The county’s parks and recreation commission agreed to have Bowen’s company, Russell Trucking, remove debris from the park after last year’s derecho. The company was supposed to cut the tops of damaged trees hanging near roads and public park areas.

Parks officials claim Bowen also cut logging roads and cut and sold as much as $66,000 in timber. Bowen’s timbering permit only authorized storm cleanup, and it did not have a valid timbering license or insurance at the time to do timbering work, commission attorney Chuck Bailey said.

“I feel like we got had,” Parks Commission President Anna Dailey said.

Bowen has not responded to telephone calls seeking comment.

Jones said he is holding Russell Trucking above the best management practices standards by the state because the damaged area is public property.

“I was surprised as you guys were at what had been done,” Jones told commission members. “He represented to me he would not be building any roads.”

Parks Director Jeff Hutchinson said he toured the park with a company representative to identify damaged trees and areas of debris to be removed. None of the trees were marked, however, and there was no written agreement on the job.

“The trees were obvious,” Hutchinson told the commission. “He knew what he was to get and what he wasn’t.”

Parks officials later found out Russell Trucking’s business license was suspended in December 2012 and it owned more than $100,000 in back taxes.

Officials didn’t rule out suing Bowen, but said they would wait to monitor the remediation work before making a decision whether to pursue litigation.

Retired Adj. Gen. Allen Tackett, who is a member of the parks commission, said he was embarrassed about the situation, and said everyone on the parks commission should be embarrassed, too.

“We have to demand things are done properly,” he said. “There has to be some sort of supervision.”