Federal Indictment for Violation of NRCS Easement
In what is believed to be one of the first prosecutions of its kind in America, a federal grand jury in Wisconsin indicted a landowner with one felony count of theft of government property for violating a conservation easement held by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). NRCS, an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture, paid the landowner more than $200,000 for the easement which prohibits timber cutting without NRCS approval.
More Details from the U.S. Attorney:
- Duffy’s Marsh according to the NRCS office in Wisconsin is “one of the best examples in the country”. NRCS assembled 17 properties in an effort to protect the Marsh of which the 17 acres clear cut were a part. The clear cut destroyed significant habitat, removed all the trees and an eagle’s nest from this sensitive area.
- NRCS gave the landowner two prior written notices not to clear cut the area and not to remove any vegetation without specifically consulting with them. The landowner did it anyway because he felt the trees were “junk”. The landowner acknowledged that he had hired a logger to clear the area and that he had received the two prior notices advising him not to clear the trees.
- NRCS says that remediation is possible and will cost an estimated $30,000.
- The landowner trial is scheduled for September 2008. The landowner has not yet suggested a negotiated settlement.