Iowa Public Television


Suit Filed in Federal Court to Stop Work on Hog Farm

posted on April 25, 2008

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — Three members of the Yankton Sioux Tribe filed a lawsuit Wednesday asking a federal judge to order a halt to construction of a large-scale hog farm west of Wagner.

The three people, representing a group called the Yankton Sioux Tribe Head Start Concerned Parents, filed the lawsuit themselves, acting as their own lawyers.

The lawsuit alleges the hog farm has not met federal environmental requirements, has failed to follow federal law requiring a search for historic and cultural resources on the construction site, and has violated federal regulations dealing with children's health.

The Yankton Sioux Tribe's Head Start facility is about 2 miles from the site of the hog farm, according to the lawsuit.

"Our children are protected under Federal Environmental Laws," the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Sioux Falls by Frances Zephier, Robin Bair and Rachel Bernie, all of Wagner. The lawsuit also says the hog farm is located within the boundaries of the Yankton Sioux Tribe's reservation as established in 1851 and 1858 treaties.

Long View Farm, owned by 11 Iowa farmers, is located on private land about 4 miles north of Marty, the headquarters of the Yankton Sioux Tribe. Representatives of the farm have said it could house an average of 3,350 sows and produce 70,000 pigs a year. The young pigs would be raised on farms in Iowa.

Construction has just started, and members of the Yankton Sioux Tribe and others have been protesting near the site for more than a week. Tribal members have said they fear the operation will smell bad and pollute the air and water in the area.

Dave Nadolski of Sioux Falls, a lawyer for Long View Farms, said Wednesday he had not yet read the lawsuit but would file a response in federal court.

"I'm not aware of any federal law we have not complied with. I'm not aware of any federal environmental requirements and I'm not aware of any permits that we needed that we don't have already," Nadolski said.

Nadolski said the hog farm operation also is on private land, not tribal land.

He said the hog farm is working on its own lawsuit to be filed in federal court. The hog farm wants a federal judge to rule whether the tribal court can prevent farm employees and vehicles from traveling on the road that leads to the site.

A judge in the Yankton Sioux Tribal Court last week granted the tribe's request for the exclusion and removal of the hog farm. A tribal lawyer said that ruling basically prohibits the developers from traveling across reservation land to get to the site.

Tribal members have argued that the tribe has jurisdiction over the paved road, which crosses over both private land under state jurisdiction and trust land under tribal jurisdiction. More than a dozen protesters were arrested near the site on Tuesday when they tried to stop a truck from going to the hog farm, but construction has continued as cement trucks and other vehicles have been entering the site.

"The focus of our interest in this jurisdictional battle is over the road," Nadolski said Wednesday. "No one so far has given us any evidence that the land my client purchased was tribal land."

An earlier legal dispute has sought to determine jurisdiction in the area. A federal judge recently ruled that the Yankton Sioux reservation still exists, but in a checkerboard made up mainly of land held in trust by the federal government for the tribe and individual tribal members.

The tribe and federal government would have jurisdiction on trust land, while the state would have jurisdiction on deeded land.

The federal judge's decision on the extent of the reservation has been appealed to a higher court.

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