Hutterite Colony to Restore Federally Protected Wetlands

HAMLIN S.D. – This week U.S. District Court Judge Karen E. Schreier issued an order requiring the Mayfield Hutterite Colony to restore federally-protected wetlands it drained in 2011. The order was based on a consent judgment entered into by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the Mayfield Hutterite Colony.

In November 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service discovered that Mayfield Colony had installed drain tile to drain four wetlands in Hamlin County that were protected by a permanent wetland easement owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Colony had been expressly warned six years earlier not to burn, drain, or fill the wetlands.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service directed the Colony to remove the drain tile. Instead, the Colony offered to exchange the drained wetlands for other property it deemed equivalent. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declined the offer and required restoration of the wetlands, as they provide necessary habitat for area waterfowl.

Despite repeated requests from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the drain tile, it was not removed. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service filed suit against the Colony in 2014, seeking the removal of the drain tile from the wetlands and a permanent injunction preventing further drainage of the wetlands.

The Colony entered into a consent judgment agreeing that the Colony, at its own expense, will restore the wetlands to their previous condition, using one of the options in the alternative restoration plan provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The restoration work will be conducted in the spring of 2016, weather permitting. If the Colony fails to comply with the restoration plan, it agrees to pay liquidated damages of $10,000. The Colony also agreed to be permanently enjoined from draining or permitting the draining of the wetlands in the future.

“Yesterday was a good day for conservation. Small, shallow wetlands, such as those protected by this easement, are the most productive breeding habitat in North America for waterfowl and many other birds. Unfortunately, they are also the most vulnerable to drainage and it was important for us to negotiate compliance with the Colony. I am proud of our Madison Wetland District staff and I’m grateful for the strong support of the U.S. Attorney’s Office as we work to keep this important habitat on the landscape,” said Fish & Wildlife Service Regional Easement Coordinator, Dave Azure.

This civil lawsuit was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Camela Theeler.