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Victory in court for crop farmer against wetland allegation
USAgNet - 11/30/2023

In a landmark decision, Peter Archer, a Campbellford crop farmer, and grain elevator operator, won a four-year legal battle against the Lower Trent River Conservation Authority. The conflict started when the authority wrongly designated 10 acres of Archer's dry land as a wetland.

Archer was unaware of the wetland classification until almost completing the clearing of dead trees on his land, a task initiated due to ash borer damage. The conservation authority, based on questionable evidence, including photographs taken after heavy rainfall, pursued legal action against Archer.

However, in court, Justice of the Peace Leona Dombrowsky, a former Ontario Minister of Agriculture, acquitted Archer on all eight charges. The verdict was based on evidence from an agrologist, biologist, and arborist hired by Archer, who concluded that the area could not qualify as a wetland due to extensive drainage.

Jacob Damftra, Archer's lawyer, argued that the conservation authority overstepped its boundaries, intervening in standard farming practices such as soil cultivation. He emphasized that the land had never been officially classified as a wetland and failed to meet the necessary criteria for such a designation.

The decision, hailed as crucial for the agricultural community, clarifies the definitions of "wetland" and "development" in the Conservation Act. It highlights that normal agricultural activities do not constitute illegal development.

Jeff Bougarts, president of the Ontario Landowners' Association, criticized the conservation authority's overreach into farming practices. Meanwhile, Brian Crews of the Northumberland Federation of Agriculture noted the case's importance but cautioned that it might not set a precedent against similar future actions by conservation authorities.

This case stands as a significant victory for farmers, underscoring the importance of proper land classification and the protection of farming rights against regulatory overreach.

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