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Federal jury convicts eastern SD farmer of disturbing protected wetlands

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- A 61-year-old eastern South Dakota farmer has been found guilty by a federal jury of disturbing protected wetlands.

Kevin Jay Mast, 61, of Volga which is just west of Brookings was found guilty last week in a trial in Sioux Falls.

He faces a maximum penalty of six months in prison and/or a $10,000 fine when he is sentenced on April 9.

He was indicted by a grand jury last September.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, Mast had voluntarily sold an easement on Jan. 19, 1973, on a piece of his property for waterfowl management rights to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The easement prohibited the drainage of any wetland areas on the property. In 2010, the federal agency notified Mast that his plan to install drain tile conflicted with the protected wetlands and would not be permitted. Despite the warning, Mast installed the drain tile in the fall of 2013.

The jury’s verdict concluded that Mast disturbed, injured, and destroyed the wetland areas protected by the easement, without the permission of the U.S. government.