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Westerman, Congressional Colleagues Demand Answers from Department of Justice on Potential Federal Liability Resulting from Forest Fire

January 21, 2016
Press Release


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Congressman Bruce Westerman (AR-04) joined nine House colleagues Wednesday (Jan. 20) in demanding answers from the United States Department of Justice and Attorney General Loretta Lynch regarding potential federal liability resulting from a prescribed burn conducted on April 14, 2010.

The U.S. Forest Service conducted a controlled burn in Logan County, Ark., which “allegedly spread onto private land owned by Deltic Timber Corporation (Deltic), damaging 174 acres of 2-3 year old pine trees” and $49,519.28 in property damage, according to Deltic.

“On October 1, 2010, Deltic submitted Standard Form 95-108, as required under the Federal Tort Claims Act to receive compensation. More than five years later, Deltic has yet to receive a response from DOJ, and DOJ now allegedly refuses to even speak with Deltic about this matter,” Westerman wrote. “It is puzzling that DOJ can find the time and manpower to appeal a prison sentence for two individuals who damaged federal land when a prescribed burn crossed onto public land, but refuses to respond to my constituents over a five-year period when a similar federal liability is in question.”

Westerman went on to say the Justice Department “must meet its responsibilities, including paying back damages caused by federal actions, if liable. This is a glaring example of a slow federal response to the needs of the American people. We simply ask that DOJ give Deltic a prompt answer as to whether the federal government owes them any compensation.”

The Department of Justice refused to comment in response to a previous letter dated Oct. 29, 2015, from Westerman to Civil Division Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer.

Members who signed the Jan. 20 letter include U.S. Reps. Paul Gosar (AZ-04), Rick Crawford (AR-01), French Hill (AR-02), Steve Womack (AR-03), Tom McClintock (CA-04), Dana Rohrabacher (CA-48), Steve Pearce (NM-02), Dan Newhouse (WA-04), and Cynthia Lummis (WY-At Large).

FILE: Jan. 20, 2016, letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch (.pdf)
FILE: Oct. 29, 2015, letter to Civil Division Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer (.pdf)