A water rights fight in northern Minnesota has been put on hold, for now.

The White Earth Band of Chippewa has announced it won't try to enforce water permits on non-tribal farmers who irrigate land immediately outside the reservation. The tribe said it will still require the permits for anyone to install a new high-capacity well on reservation land.

The move comes as the band is increasingly concerned about water use in the area, as more and more forest has been cut down to make room for potato fields and row crops. The band announced last year that it would require some of the heaviest water users within 5 miles of the reservation to get a permit from the tribe in addition to any state permits required.

R.D. Offutt Farms, a potato-growing giant that owns or operates about 50 farms with high-capacity irrigation wells in the area, sued the band in March, saying only the state of Minnesota has authority to require water permits on non-tribal members.

The case was filed early in U.S. District Court in Minnesota; no hearings have yet been set.

R.D. Offutt spokeswoman Jennifer Maleitzkesaid the company is reviewing White Earth's policy changes to determine its impact on the lawsuit.

"Minnesota farmers continue to need clarity and predictable, well-established rules when it comes to water regulation," she said.

The White Earth reservation includes about 1,000 square miles in northwestern Minnesota, just west of Itasca State Park at the headwaters of the Mississippi River. Its borders cover Mahnomen County and parts of Becker and Clearwater counties.

Irrigation in the area has more than doubled since the late 1980s, from 3.5 billion gallons of water a year to more than 8 billion gallons, according the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The tribe's governing council said that water issues extend beyond the immediate 5-mile area surrounding the reservation, in a statement announcing the policy change.

"It requires a broader regional focus," the council wrote.

The state's water permitting process hasn't changed for the largest water users since the irrigation boom began. In the meantime, less water is available for small farmers, wild ricers, leech harvesters and minnow producers, the council said.

"Water is sacred and belongs to everyone, yet Minnesota's current system fails to protect this vital resources for all," the council wrote.

White Earth said it will work work with the EPA and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, among other agencies, to start a task force to study water use and needs in a seven-county area. That task force will come up with enforcement and regulation recommendations by the end of 2026, according to the statement.