Garfield man faces fine for violating federal wetland easement
A Garfield man was recently found guilty of constructing a road through a federally protected wetland on his own property.
Based on evidence presented during a two-day bench trial last August, Judge Leo I. Brisbois issued a written order on January 4 convicting James Bosek of one misdemeanor count of filling a wetland that was subject to a federal easement under the National Wildlife Refuge System Act.
The road is located on the eastern edge of Bosek's property in Douglas County.
The property is subject to a perpetual easement that the U.S. Department of Interior purchased in 1963.
When contacted by the Echo Press, Bosek said that he built the road to gain access to his land, which he was using to stock walleyes for his fisheries business and to provide marshland for nesting ducks and migrating geese.
He said that agencies made mistakes and miscommunicated with him during the permit process.
"What it amounts to is that I trusted our local, state and federal agencies in a project to create and restore over 40 acres of ponds and wetlands on the 160-acre property that I purchased for our home in 2001," Bosek said. "It was such a good restoration project that the agencies were not following protocol and ignored or made mistakes during the permit process, which left me as the landowner on the hook for the two-tenths-of-an-acre field road over a ditch.
"I was within my right to access my land and not be left landlocked," Bosek said, adding that the original easement of 1963 showed two access field roads. "At the present time, I only have the one field road that I installed in 2003 by permit."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) discovered the road while making an unrelated visit to Bosek's property in April of 2008. During the bench trial, a USFWS biologist concluded that filling in the wetland damaged it as a protected native habitat for waterfowl.
Under the statute of conviction, Bosek faces a potential maximum penalty of 180 days in prison, a $5,000 fine and costs of restoring the wetland.
Sentencing is expected to take place at a hearing, scheduled for March 27 at the federal courthouse in Fergus Falls.