GRAND JUNCTION – A 72-year-old man was sentenced to one-year probation and must pay $30,000 in restitution for illegally building a road on Forest Service land.
Earl Bennett reportedly built a road in the Cathedral Peaks Subdivision near Crawford. According to court documents, Bennett was the President of the Cathedral Peaks Ranch Landowner’s Association (CPRLA) when he bulldozed a trail and created an illegal road on National Forest land.
The unauthorized road was adjacent to another landowner’s private property. The documents said a witness saw Bennett bulldoze the area, which took 11 hours and built a road on Forest Service land.
A Forest Service crew confirmed the newly constructed road that was almost a mile long. The damage to the land included rock and soil removal, erosion, hillside weakening and a number of oak trees destroyed.
Authorities said the road created a serious risk of mudslide and endangered a home below the damaged area. “Destroying public land is selfish and steals from all of us,” said U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer. “The U.S. Attorney’s Offices works together with the Forest Service and local law enforcement to protect our public land.”
Bennett also pled guilty to a previous Class B Misdemeanor for constructing a road, trail on National Forest System lands without authorization, a contract or an approved plan.
A U.S. Magistrate Judge sentenced Bennett with one year of probation and is required to pay $30,000 in restitution for repairs. The case was investigated by the U.S. Forest Service.