For decades, some land within the Detroit Lakes Wetland Management District, which is part of the National Wildlife Refuge System, has been cultivated under cooperative agreements between farmers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The refuge is important for the preservation of America's natural habitat and the continuation of several species of waterfowl and other birds.
In recent years, genetically modified crops have begun to be farmed on refuges, resulting in a sharp spike in pesticide and neonicotinoid usage in the area. This has triggered a series of lawsuits by environmental groups which allege that the FWS has failed to meet legal requirements for reviewing the environmental impact of such practices before permitting them, especially since it has been allowed in areas set aside for wildlife protection. In addition to the Detroit Lakes WMD, the lawsuit seeks to protect four other refuges for a total of 11,000 farmed acres of land.
Of particular concern in this case is the heavy use of "Roundup Ready" crops and the pesticide glyphosate, which has been shown to be persistent in the environment, cause health problems to animals and cause herbicide-resistant superweeds to proliferate. Another important issue is the growing use of neonicotinoids in the region, which have been implicated in America's devastating bee colony collapse disorder.