A lot of fuss over 50 feet
Jim Bosek of Garfield can only shake his head about it now.
He still can’t believe that his intentions to help waterfowl ended up in a long court battle with federal wildlife officials that ultimately forced him to move his field road off of a federally protected easement.
After a six-year dispute, the road was moved last week – by about 50 feet.
Let’s back up a bit.
Shortly after Bosek purchased his 160-acre property off County Road 8 NW in 2001, he decided to create and restore 40 acres of it as a wetland area for waterfowl.
The project, however, would no longer give him access to his land, so he applied and received a permit to build a field road along the eastern edge of his property.
Bosek knew the property was subject to a perpetual easement that the U.S. Department of Interior purchased in 1963, but he said he worked with local, state and federal agencies that approved his plans to restore the wetland, which included the access road, so he went ahead and put the road in, filling in about two-tenths of an acre of wetland to do it.
The situation got messy in 2008 when another official with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) made an unrelated visit to Bosek’s property and realized that Bosek had filled in the small portion of wetland, which was located in a federally protected basin.
Bosek was charged with violating the easement and in January 2013 convicted of a petty misdemeanor and sentenced to two years of probation. In addition, Bosek was ordered to remove the road and complete the restoration as outlined by the USFWS.
Bosek was also facing a $2,500 fine, but the judge in his case said that if the restoration was completed by March 31, 2014, the fine would be waived.
An early winter and prolonged cold made the timeline tight but Boskek was able to get the work done in time.
The field road was moved off his property to his neighbor’s, approximately 50 feet away. The neighbor has agreed to let Bosek use the road.
Bosek feels he was mistreated during the dispute.
“The whole way the federal agencies handled this was wrong,” he said. “They used me as an example of someone doing something bad. Here I was, trying to restore wetlands and I was treated like a criminal…I’m a good citizen. I did nothing wrong.”
Bosek said the federal court case, which took place in Duluth and Fergus Falls, and the expense of moving the road cost him about $20,000. He said the federal government must have also racked up substantial court costs, having four federal wildlife officials and a biologist testify at his hearing.
“The bottom line is that the solution was so astronomical, it doesn’t make any sense,” said Bosek, looking out at the new field road and shaking his head yet again.