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WHAT'S MINE IS YOURS!
The John and Josephine Bronczyk Story

John Bronczyk and his sister Josephine own a 160-acre farm in Anoka County, Minnesota which they have been farming for more than 70 years. The elderly siblings no longer engage in dairy farming but grow rye and hay and tend a vegetable garden. Their plans to enjoy a quiet retirement, however, were dashed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). In 1990, the state declared three-quarters of their farm a "public waters wetland," which deprived the Bronczyks of the right to keep people off their land. By regulatory fiat, the Bronczyks were transformed from property owners into mere custodians of public land.

The Bronczyks' problems started in 1984 when the state determined that Columbus Lake, which comprises nine acres of the Bronczyks' property, was wetlands. What was most disconcerting to the Bronczyks was that the state ruled that an indeterminate amount of solid land surrounding the marsh was also protected wetlands. The Bronczyks were never told just how much of their property adjacent to the nine-acre marsh was protected wetlands. In 1990, the state finally ruled that 104 acres of their 160-acre farm were "public waters wetland." According to state law, a wetland that abuts a large lake is public water. Private landowners are prohibited from excluding people from public water wetlands if people can reach the wetlands from a public road. Because a public road bordered one side of the Bronczyks' property, anybody could walk all over the three-quarters of the Bronczyk farm classified as wetlands.

Understandably, the Bronczyks did not want people roaming their land at will. The Bronczyks were especially concerned that the wetlands designation gave people the right to hunt on their property, which the couple didn't want given that portions of the wetlands were only 200 yards from their home.

The Bronczyks filed a lawsuit in 1994 against the State of Minnesota for a regulatory taking of their property. The Bronczyks argued that since the state deprived them of the right to exclude people from their property, the state owed them compensation for the loss of that fundamental right. In 1996, a state judge ruled that the couple had a right to prohibit people from trespassing on their land. The judge granted the DNR's request to dismiss the lawsuit but only on the condition that it make concessions to the Bronczyks on controlling public access to their farm.
Source: Institute For Justice

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