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Pine Creek Lake. Photo by Walker Stole
Mar 17 2016

Canceled

The Department of Interior cancels oil and gas lease in the sacred Badger-Two Medicine

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There will be no oil rigs rolling into the sacred Badger-Two Medicine anytime soon.

This morning, the federal government took action to terminate the Solenex lease on the grounds that it was improperly and therefore illegally issued in 1982.

In a letter to Solenex, the acting Montana director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) wrote that the BLM and and United States Forest Service (USFS) violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act. He also explained that the agencies “failed to comport with the national policy to protect and preserve the rights of American Indians to exercise traditional religions, including access to important sites.”

The letter to Solenex goes on: “The BLM and the Department have determined that surface disturbing activities are incompatible with the irreplaceable natural and cultural resources of the Badger-Two medicine area. Those resources must be safeguarded from all future oil and gas activities.”

The Louisana-based Solenex company filed its original complaint to U. S. District Judge Richard Leon in 2013, alleging that the government had unlawfully delayed the development of the lease and asking the court to lift the lease suspension so the company could begin drilling in the Badger as early as the summer of 2016. This direct threat to the cultural, historical, and ecological values of the Badger-Two Medicine, just south of Glacier National Park, inspired a cascade of opposition to drilling there.

From tribal nations to sportsmen and women to people across Montana who love wild places, we raised our voices together – and we have been heard.

We also recognize that there is more work to be done. We expect this action will be appealed. The Blackfeet will keep fighting, and so will we. Fortunately, we will be continuing our fight on firm ground because the government’s defense of lease cancellation is legally and morally sound.

We are optimistic that this decision will be upheld and that we will be able to turn our attention to the seventeen remaining leases over 34,000 acres in the Badger. This first cancellation is a big step forward, and we’ll keep moving forward until all of these leases are gone.

Montanans realize that there are some places that are too important, too culturally and ecologically significant, to be drilled. The Badger-Two Medicine is one of those places. We’re thankful that the Department of Interior and Secretary Sally Jewell have come to this realization as well.

MWA will continue working with the Blackfeet tribe until the Badger is finally and permanently protected.

- Casey Perkins, MWA Rocky Mountain Front field director