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SD colony ordered to remove tile drainage

WILLOW LAKE, S.D. -- An eastern South Dakota Hutterite colony says it will defend itself against penalties involving a wetland easement dispute. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has asked a federal judge to order Mayfield Hutterite Brethren Col...

WILLOW LAKE, S.D. -- An eastern South Dakota Hutterite colony says it will defend itself against penalties involving a wetland easement dispute.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has asked a federal judge to order Mayfield Hutterite Brethren Colony to remove tile drainage they say violates a permanent easement on property near Bryant, S.D., the agency had secured from previous owners in 1978.

"The colony has violated and continues to willfully violate the easement, by refusing to remove the drain tile and restore the wetlands," the USFW says in the complaint.

Joe Waldner, the head of the colony, says he's worked to move wetlands on the field. The agency says the colony placed tiles along some of the protected wetlands. He says the colony originally was unaware of the easement and didn't consider some of the wetlands as wetlands.

Waldner declined further comment, except to say that his colony has revised its due diligence procedures to make sure they are aware of wetland easements when acquiring property in the future. He referred Agweek to his attorney, Jeff Svenn, of Aberdeen, S.D., who wasn't immediately available for comment.

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Permanent easements are sometimes controversial. The South Dakota House of Representatives in 2014 attempted to limit conservation easements to 99 years, but the bill failed on a 17-51 vote. Groups including Pheasants Forever opposed the bill, arguing it would limit the ability to protect acres for soil, water and wildlife.

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