A longtime fisheries operator in west-central Minnesota built a road on his property, and for that he could go to prison.

James Bosek, 48, of Garfield, was found guilty last week in federal court in Fergus Falls of building a road in 2003 on his 160 acres knowing that it went through a federally protected wetland basin.

In convicting Bosek of a misdemeanor under the National Wildlife Refuge System Act, Judge Leo I. Brisbois wrote that the Douglas County property owner knew of an easement "in perpetuity" that the U.S. Interior Department bought in 1963. Bosek purchased the land in 2001, where he also lives, and the easement was still in force.

Despite the easement, Bosek built the road on the eastern edge of his property without gaining proper permission from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

The USFWS discovered the five-year-old road in 2008 while making an unrelated visit to the eastern edge of the property concerning a proposed sediment erosion project.

A USFWS biologist testified that the road filled in wetland and damaged a protected native habitat for ducks and other waterfowl. Bosek declined to remove the road and restore the wetland, leading to his being charged in August 2011.

The road was built as part of a larger project to put in a 10-acre pond for walleye that would be raised for stocking lakes, Bosek said in an interview Tuesday. Without the road, he added, he would not have vehicle access to 80 of his acres.

Bosek also pointed out that the project included him creating 40 acres of marsh on his property for nesting ducks and migrating geese, while the road has compromised just two-tenths of an acre of wetland.

"I still believe I was doing everything right because I was following advice [during conversations] through this project" with federal conservation representatives, he said. "I had a permit, but they said it was the wrong one."

Bosek faces a potential maximum penalty of 180 days in prison, a $5,000 fine, and costs of restoring the wetland. His sentencing is scheduled for March 27 in Fergus Falls.

Bosek said he isn't sure what his punishment will be, but he doubts he'll get prison time. He could be ordered to remove the road, but he's hoping "common sense" will allow him to keep it.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482