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Wetlands violation leads to happy ending

By Carol Stender

cstender@agrinews.com

FERGUS FALLS, Minn. -- A; violation of federal wetland regulations had a happy ending thanks to state and local conservation agencies and organizations in Otter Tail County.

The situation started when an Otter Tail County farmer repeatedly violated wetland laws over a 10-year period, said Dale Krystosek, Board of Water and Soil Resources wetland specialist. The farmer, not named by BWSR officials, appeared before three judges during that time for violations and was ordered by the third judge in 2003 to pay $123,000 in restitution.

Restoration will take place on land other than the site of the original violation since the landowner failed to comply with previous court orders, he said.

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"This was a severe case," he said. "Most violations don't go this far."

The restoration figure was based on the cost of purchasing wetland banking credits on the open market at the time of the decision.

The court gave permission to the Department of Natural Resources and BWSR to enter into an agreement with Pheasants Forever to purchase land for the mitigation. Otter Tail, Pelican River and Clay County Pheasants Forever chapters provided funding for the purchase. The Fergus Falls Fish and Game Club, Bois De Sioux Watershed District, Ashby Coots Unlimited and Andrew and Brenda Lacey supported the project.

A 160-acre tract, located southwest of Fergus Falls, was acquired from restitution plus funding from Pheasants Forever, the Minnesota Habitat Corridors Partnership and other local groups. A project design is in the planning process for wetland and upland restoration including more than 28 acres of wetlands.

The land will be donated to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources when the project is finished and will be named the Grant Coyour Memorial Wildlife Management Area, Krystosek said. Coyour was a conservation officer and pilot killed in an airplane accident south of Baudette when he and researcher Eric Cox were conducting a moose tracking survey in the Red Lake Wildlife Management area. Cox, from Harbor Springs, Mich., was also killed.

"This quartersection will be restored and provide benefits to all current and future generations of Minnesotans," said Matt Holland, Minnesota director of conservation for Pheasants Forever.

The project is "smack dab in the middle of a complex of private and public land habitat projects," he said.

The area is expected to attract an array of waterfowl, songbirds, pheasants, prairie chickens and deer.

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