Ancient trees clear cut at Jefferson County couple’s home, they say without permission

NEW MARKET (WATE) – If you own acres of property, you might have some tress you’d like to have removed, especially if they’re dead. Some businesses will remove them and pay you for the lumber.

The practice of selling off your backyard trees is legal in most cases, and the companies buying them are perfectly legitimate. However, a couple in New Market is angry about what happened to the trees in the woods around their home.

Leaving a forest of trees intact is of greater value to homeowners than the money offered by companies to remove them. Mature trees, the ones usually sought after by logging companies, can add value to a homeowner’s property. The couple called a logger to look at some damaged trees on their property, but were outraged at what happened next.

There are hundreds of old trees that line the entrance to Linda Somma’s home. However, strong storms earlier this year took down a few of them.

“Three trees fell, very big trees, blocking our driveway,” she said.

So she went looking for help. She found a newspaper ad that caught her attention saying, “Want to buy standing timber.”

“When I saw this ad, I thought, wow. Maybe they’ll buy those trees and get them out of our way,” said Linda Somma.

So she called East Tennessee Firewood and Logging out of Mooresburg operated by L.C. Barnard. His Facebook page shows pictures of jobs they have done. He visited Linda Somma within hours of her call.

“He said he would take that out of the way,” she said.

Linda Somma said the logger told her he’d harvest the big white oak and other damaged trees, if she agreed, but Somma said she hesitated about cutting the oak when they talked last month.

“And I said I have to talk to my husband and I was leaving town. And wouldn’t be back till next week. Let’s talk about it then,” she said.

That white oak never came down, but nearly three dozen other trees did, angering Linda’s husband, Patrick Somma.

“He had the dozer come through and just clear everything. How did he get it out? I don’t understand how he did it in four hours,” he said.

Patrick Somma said neither he nor his wife were present when the logger and his crew cut down close to 30 trees on the property.

“If you are going to come and cut any of these trees, you cut that tree, you cut that tree and these trees stay. You thin it out. If you look above you, this was all forest. Thick forest, I couldn’t walk in here. Now I could put a swimming pool in here,” he said.

Linda Somma was not at home and neither was Patrick when the logger drove his bulldozer up the hill to the home’s entrance to begin harvesting the trees, some of which were left behind.

“I don’t know how many men he had. I don’t know what happened, but I know he made sure that the truck had entrance – a straight entrance and a straight exit. He staged it beautifully,” said Patrick Somma.

The logger left his bulldozer behind and had to pick it up. He returned a day after cutting the trees and was confronted by Patrick Somma.

“What could he do? He had to come. Meeting me was the last thing he ever wanted to do after he met me,” Somma said.

WATE 6 On Your Side called L.C. Barnard and asked to hear his side of the story. He called back and said he’s done absolutely nothing wrong. Barnard said he took the job “to cut damaged trees” and said he “agreed to pay the Sommas for cutting a variety of good ones.”

He did what is called a “select cut” and said, under the circumstances, “a number of small trees came down with the good ones.” Barnard said he “was given permission to do the job” but said he has “not paid” the Sommas because he “still has logs on their property.”

Barnard said he’s talked with “sheriff’s deputies who are investigating the case.”

“We didn’t want to do this to our forest,” said Patrick Somma, who said he’s tried to be a good steward of his property. “This is devastation. This is a crime. This is a crime scene.”

Jefferson County Sheriff Bud McCoig says Barnard will be served with an arrest warrant. He said Barnard is expected to turn himself in on Thursday on a theft charge.

Patrick Somma says he will likely have to hire an arborist.


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