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Man sentenced for building road through a wetland

A Garfield, Minn. man was sentenced last week for illegal development activities on federally protected wetlands.

According to a press release from the Federal Wildlife Service, 49-year-old James Bosek was sentenced on March 27 for constructing a road through land that he knew was a federally protected wetland basin.

United States Magistrate Judge Leo I. Brisbois sentenced Bosek to two years of probation on one misdemeanor count of filling a wetland that was subject to a federal easement under the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act.

“Wetlands are essential buffers during annual high water events as we head into the spring melt, and every acre we can keep as undeveloped wetland and prairie habitat helps buffer everyone’s land,” explained Fergus Falls Wetland Management District project leader Larry Martin.

The Wetland Management District identifies, protects and restores tallgrass prairie/wetland ecosystems and associated habitats. The district manages waterfowl production areas and perpetual wetland easements like the one on Bosek’s land. Together, these federally protected lands provide nesting and breeding habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife.

The judge told Bosek in court that the restoration of the wetland is the only way to “undo the injury to the public interest.” Bosek’s fine of $2,500 will be waived if restoration is complete by March 31, 2014.

Bosek engaged in prohibited activity when he built a road across the eastern edge of his property, located in rural Douglas County. The property is subject to a perpetual easement that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service purchased in 1963.

It was proven that Bosek knew of the easement before building the road, but did not obtain permission or authorization from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before altering the wetland. Fergus Falls Wetland Management District staff discovered the road while making an unrelated visit to Bosek’s property in April of 2008.

Judge Brisbois concluded that Bosek’s filling of the wetland damaged the landscape as a protected native habitat for waterfowl. Under the statute of conviction, the maximum penalty is 180 days in prison, a $5,000 fine, and costs of restoring the wetland.

The Fergus Falls Wetland Management District includes the counties of Douglas, Grant, Otter Tail, Wadena and Wilkin.