A longtime fisheries operator in west-central Minnesota has been sentenced to probation and ordered to remove from his property a road that he built on a federally protected wetland.

James Bosek, 49, of Garfield, was sentenced Wednesday in federal court in Fergus Falls to two years' probation and fined $2,500. However, Judge Leo Brisbois said he would waive the fine if the road is removed and the wetland restored within 12 months.

Brisbois told Bosek, who was convicted in January, that the restoration is the only way to "undo the injury to the public interest."

In a court filing ahead of sentencing, Bosek had offered to "alter the structure of the road to make it less harmful."

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

Bosek built the road on the eastern edge of his property without gaining permission from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The agency discovered the five-year-old road in 2008 while making an unrelated visit.

A biologist for the Fish and Wildlife Service testified that the road damaged a protected native habitat for ducks and other waterfowl. Bosek refused to remove the road and restore the wetland, leading to the charge against him.

Bosek said 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. Without the road, he added, he would not have vehicle access to 80 of his acres.

Bosek also said that the project created 40 acres of marsh for nesting ducks and migrating geese, while the road has compromised just two-tenths of an acre of wetland.