By Tina Shaw and Jeff Lucas, USFWS
If you fill it, they will come.
Minnesota’s wetlands and prairies saw a victory recently as a wetland easement violator was sentenced for illegal development activities on a federally protected wetland basin in central Minnesota.
The Minnesota man was sentenced March 27, 2013 for constructing a road through a wetland that he knew was a federally protected basin. United States Magistrate Judge Leo I. Brisbois sentenced James 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.” explains Fergus Falls Wetland Management District (WMD) project leader Larry Martin.
The Prairie Pothole Region is dotted with small wetlands that are interspersed with prairie. Habitat like this is important to wildlife and people alike. (Photo: USFWS)
Judge Brisbois told Bosek in court that the restoration of the wetland is the only way to “undo the injury to the public interest.” So, he fined Bosek $2,500, but said if the restoration is satisfactorily 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, which 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. It was further proven that Bosek knew of the easement before building the road, but did not obtain permission or authorization from the Service before altering the wetland basin.
Judge Brisbois credited the trial testimony of Service biologist’s/Federal Wildlife Officer’s Chad Raitz and Eddie Edwards surveyed the property and concluded that Bosek’s filling of the wetland damaged the landscape as a protected native habitat for waterfowl. Bosek refused to follow directions by the officers 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 a 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. This case is the result of an investigation by the Fergus Falls WMD Law Enforcement staff and Minnesota Zone Law Enforcement Officer Brent Taylor.
Sentencing announcement: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/news/wetlandsentence.html
Fergus Falls Wetland Management District: http://www.fws.gov/refuge/Fergus_Falls_WMD/
Tina Shaw is a Public Affairs Specialist in the Midwest Region’s Office of External Affairs. Jeff Lucas is a Federal Wildlife Officer for the National Wildlife Refuge System.