A 72-year-old man has been sentenced to a year of probation and ordered to pay $30,000 in restitution to repair a road he illegally built on national forest near Crawford, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado says.

Earl Bennett spent 11 hours using a bulldozer to create nearly a mile of road on Forest Service land on June 28, 2014, the office said in a news release.

He was sentenced by U.S. Magistrate Judge Gordon Gallagher after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor for building a road, trail or other improvement on national forest land without special-use authorization, a contract or an approved operating plan, the release said.

Bennett did the work while president of the Cathedral Peaks Ranch Landowners’ Association, building the road on land adjacent to property of another subdivision landowner. A witness saw him on the bulldozer building the road, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

It said the work resulted in soil and rock removal, erosion damage, hillside weakening, and the cutting of numerous oak trees, and created a risk of mudslide, endangering a home below the damaged area. 

“Destroying public land is selfish and steals from all of us,” Colorado U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer said in the release. “The U.S. Attorney’s Offices works together with the Forest Service and local law enforcement to protect our public land.” 

Forest Service Special Agent in Charge Kent Delbon said in the release, “National forests are public lands; they belong to all of us to enjoy safely and responsibly. Constructing, placing or maintaining any kind of road, trail, structure, fence, enclosure, communication equipment, or other improvements on National Forest System lands without permission is illegal and harmful to the environment.”

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