Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that the government has reached a settlement agreement with a Carrollton, Mo., man who admitted he logged trees that were located in a wetlands easement on his property.
Ben Gibson, of Carrollton, Mo., paid the government $11,419 as part of a settlement agreement. Under the terms of the agreement, the government will not file a civil complaint against Gibson and will use that payment to implement a forest mitigation plan, including replanting trees to replace those that were harvested by Gibson.
‚ÄúThe federal government has made a substantial investment in easements to protect our wetlands from destruction,‚ÄĚ Dickinson said. ‚ÄúThis is an important natural resource for all Missourians. Property owners who willingly participate in the Wetland Reserve Program must honor their commitment or face the consequences.‚ÄĚ
In January 2008, the government paid $86,424 to Gibson‚Äôs company, By-Pass, to acquire the easement, which explicitly prohibits harvesting timber. After the dissolution of By-Pass, the property was transferred to Gibson. On Oct. 11, 2011, personnel with the Natural Resources Conservation Service discovered that 97 trees had been harvested from the easement site. Gibson admitted that he was responsible for harvesting the trees, which had a total volume of 42,204 board-feet with an estimated market value of $8,230.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Gibson acknowledges that any subsequent violation of the easement will constitute a breach of the settlement agreement and entitle the government to $86,424 in damages (the amount paid to obtain the easement).
The Wetland Reserve Program is a voluntary program that provides landowners the opportunity to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands on their property by enrolling acreage into the program through the use of permanent easements, 30-year easements, restoration cost share agreements, or any combination of those options.