A western Colorado man has been sentenced to probation after he illegally built a road on Forest Service land near his property, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver.
Prosecutors said Earl Bennett, 72, was sentenced to serve one year of probation and pay $30,000 in restitution. He previously pled guilty to a misdemeanor for constructing a road, trail, or other improvement on National Forest System lands without special-use authorization, a contract, or an approved operating plan.
According to prosecutors, Bennett built the road in June 2014, while he was president of the Cathedral Peaks Ranch Landowner’s Association near Crawford, Colorado, which is in Delta County. A witness saw Bennett creating the road on Forest Service land adjacent to another landowner’s private property, according to prosecutors.
In August 2014, a Forest Service crew went to the the site and found nearly a mile of newly constructed road. The damage included soil and rock removal, erosion damage, hillside weakening, and numerous oak trees cut down. The road also created a risk of mudslide, endangering a home located below the damaged area.
The restitution money will be used to repair the damage, according to prosecutors.