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Pine Creek Lake. Photo by Walker Stole
Jan 10 2017

A Beautiful Day for the Badger

Department of Interior cancels last remaining ‘80s-era oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine

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Today the U.S. Department of the Interior cancelled the last two remaining leases in the Badger-Two Medicine, marking a major victory in an epic battle against oil and gas development on the Rocky Mountain Front that began 35 years ago. These last two cancellations help ensure that this ecologically and culturally rich area will remain a sanctuary for people and wildlife. They also complete the redress of an enormous wrong the U.S. government perpetrated against the Blackfeet Nation in the 1980s.

Just twelve short days before the end of the Obama administration, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced the removal of the two leases, owned by J.G. Kluthe and Moncrief Oil. These last remnants of the early 1980s leasing campaign, which resulted in dozens of leases blanketing the 130,000 acre Badger-Two Medicine, covered just under eleven thousand acres. Similar to an agreement made in November with Devon Energy, the two companies will be fully reimbursed, including adjustments for inflation, for all payments made on the leases.

Nestled between Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area, the Badger is the cradle of Blackfeet culture and a vital home to grizzly bears, Canada lynx, Westslope cutthroat trout, and all other species that make the Crown of the Continent one of the wildest landscapes in the Lower 48.

Since the 1980s, MWA and our conservation and tribal partners have fought for the protection of the Badger and challenged the legality of the leases, contending the government never conducted a proper environmental review or held meaningful consultations with the Blackfeet Nation. In 2013, Solenex, LLC filed suit against the government, demanding their right to drill in the Badger. Their suit reignited the opposition and rekindled old partnerships to come the Badger’s defense.

The Solenex court case and simultaneous review of potential impacts of oil and gas exploration to the Badger-Two Medicine Traditional Cultural District resulted in the cancellation of the first lease in March 2016.

Solenex, continues to pursue its misguided quest to drill in the Badger. Though their case is moving forward in a Washington, D.C. district court, we believe the government’s legal basis for cancelling the leases is solid. Fortunately, MWA and our partners were recently allowed to intervene in the case in support of the cancellation. This means that the judge will now consider our arguments before he rules later this year on the Solenex lease cancellation.

Looking ahead, we recognize that the incoming administration poses a unique challenge to permanently protecting the Badger, but we are confident that we will eventually find a solution that achieves this goal. We are confident because tribal members, conservationists, sportsmen and women, and a majority of Montanans are united on behalf of this special place.

Because of the partnerships we’ve forged and the love we share for this landscape, we have made incredible progress towards eliminating the threat of oil and gas development in the Badger. We’re not going to give up until the last threat is gone and the Badger is permanently protected.

- Casey Perkins, MWA's Rocky Mountain Front field director