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Column: Timber titan appeals to Supreme Court
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WASHINGTON -- When the country’s second-largest lumber producer tries to take the U.S. Justice Department to the Supreme Court over a forest fire that started under the distracted gaze of a watchtower forester -- who at the time was reportedly peeing on his own bare feet -- you can expect a few sparks to fly. You also might want to sit down, take out a scratch pad, and prepare to be entertained, if somewhat overwhelmed, by allegations of prosecutorial fraud, coverups, sham damages, fictionalized reports, a presiding judge’s tweet too far and millions of dollars in losses and judgments -- all part of an environmental whodunit that spelled catastrophe for 65,000 acres of timber and wildlife and created a legal mess that began more than a decade ago in northern California. In brief: A fire started in September 2007 on property leased by Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI), ostensibly by a bulldozer operated by a man hired by a subcontractor employed by SPI. Among the acreage burned, 45,000 acres were part of the Plumas and Lassen national forests.