Minnesota Man Sentenced to Restore Federally Protected Wetland Basin
By Tina Shaw
Minnesota’s wetlands and prairies saw a victory in late March as James Bosek was sentenced for illegal development activities on a federally protected wetland basin in central Minnesota.
Bosek, a 49-year-old from the central Minnesota community of Garfield, was sentenced 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.
Martin manages the Fergus Falls Wetland Management District, whose mission is to identify, protect, and restore the tallgrass prairie / wetland ecosystem 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 vital nesting and breeding habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife.
Judge Brisbois told Bosek in court that the restoration of the wetland is the only way to “undo the injury to the public interest.” He fined Bosek $2,500, but said that if the restoration is completed by March 31, 2014, the fine will be waived.
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. Bosek purchased the property subject to the easement in 2001.
“The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service purchases wetland easements to protect wetlands from this type of alteration, along with any type of drainage activity, and we are pleased to see the court upholding our easement and restoration efforts in Minnesota,” Martin said.
It was further 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 credited the trial testimony of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist who surveyed the property and concluded that Bosek’s filling of the wetland damaged the landscape as a protected native habitat for waterfowl. Bosek was charged on August 19, 2011, for violating the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act after he refused to follow directions to remove the road and restore the wetland.
Wetlands are very dynamic. By placing fill, in this case building a road, in a wetland, the natural processes of that landscape are disrupted. The fill required for the road eliminated the vegetation that was growing in that area of the wetland and changed it to non-native upland vegetation. The added fill also altered the amount of water that would naturally occur in the wetland basin, which affects the wildlife living in and using the wetland.
Under the statute of conviction, the maximum penalty is 180 days in prison, a $5,000 fine, and costs of restoring the wetland. This case is the result of an investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Fergus Falls Wetland Management District Law Enforcement staff and Zone Law Enforcement Officer Brent Taylor and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lola Velazquez-Aguilu, Thomas Calhoun-Lopez, and William J. Otteson.
The Fergus Falls Wetland Management District was established in 1962 with the initiation of the Accelerated Small Wetlands Acquisition Program. It is located in west central Minnesota and includes the counties of Douglas, Grant, Otter Tail, Wadena and Wilkin.
Learn more about the Fergus Falls Wetland Management District at: http://www.fws.gov/refuge/Fergus_Falls_WMD/