California Farmer Pays $1.1 Million for Plowing Wetlands

The Associated Press reported yesterday that, “A California farmer will pay $1.1 million for plowing federally protected wetlands and streams, the U.S. Justice Department said Tuesday, closing a yearslong legal battle that made him a rallying figure for critics of environmental regulation.

“The Justice Department announced the consent decree for John Duarte, who owns land and a nursery in Northern California. The settlement with federal authorities, who had been due to start the penalty phase in Duarte’s legal case Tuesday, includes civil penalties and money to restore wetlands and streams.

“The case began after Duarte bought fallow land within federally protected wetlands and streams in 2012, and paid a contractor to deep till it, or rip it. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cited Duarte. A federal court found against Duarte last year, saying the wetlands that Duarte tilled hadn’t been plowed for at least 24 years.”

The AP article pointed out that, “The California farmer’s case had been spotlighted by farm groups, including farmers concerned about what had been an Obama administration project to more clearly define what wetlands and waterways fall under the protection of existing clean-water laws. The American Farm Bureau Federation lauded Duarte for standing up to federal environmental regulators.”

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