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Frankfort man banned from national parks, must pay $26,000 for dredging the Platte River

Andrew Blair Howard, 63, of Sparta and Frankfort, was sentenced to probation and ordered to pay thousands in restitution for illegally dredging the Platte River.

Howard was sentenced to 60 months’ probation and ordered to pay $22,472.22 in total restitution to the National Park Service and U.S. Coast Guard, along with $3,947.71 in costs related to the court proceedings.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Ray Kent further banned Mr. Howard as a term of his probation from being on National Park Service property, including Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The government did not seek a sentence of imprisonment.


“Mr. Howard had a policy dispute with the National Park Service over whether to dredge the Platte River.  Reasonable people can disagree on the best course of action, but Congress gave NPS the power to decide. While Mr. Howard had the right to disagree and advocate for his position, he did not have the right to take the law into his own hands and force his favored result. Doing so was a misdemeanor, and this sentence holds Mr. Howard accountable for his offense,” said U.S. Attorney Mark Totten.

Howard was previously convicted at trial in February 2024 of two federal misdemeanors for tampering and vandalism at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in connection with an Aug. 15, 2022, diversion of the Platte River.

In August 2022, National Park Service law enforcement officers investigated reports of a diversion of the Platte River near its mouth where it meets Lake Michigan. Evidence at trial showed that on August 15, 2022, Howard used a shovel to dig sediment and rocks from the river basin and stacked large rocks on a dam to divert the river’s natural water flow toward a newly created channel out to Lake Michigan, contrary to a decision by the National Park Service to let the river follow its natural course.

After careful consideration of impacts to affected ecosystems and wildlife, the National Park Service concluded that major remediation to restore the area to its natural state was not advisable because the remediation would involve substantial disturbance to the fragile ecosystems of the area. NPS continues to monitor and assess the damage and situation.

The diversion also created an unauthorized access for large boats to enter Platte Bay. Within days, the natural power of the water and the dam caused the new channel to reach approximately 200 feet wide.

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