Court Deals Setback in Longstanding Effort to Protect Badger-Two Medicine
D.C. judge reinstates cancelled oil and gas leases, but the fight for the Badger is far from over
Featured, In the Media
On Monday, Judge Richard Leon issued an opinion from his district courtroom in Washington, D.C. that has temporarily impeded our fight to permanently protect the Badger-Two Medicine, a landscape tucked between Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness and a place the Blackfeet Nation hold sacred.
Over nine months after the case was fully briefed, the judge issued an opinion that the federal government had waited too long in canceling the Solenex and Moncrief oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine.
The bad news: The leases are now reinstated and the threat of an industrialized Badger again looms.
The good news: This was not a setback that was unanticipated or is insurmountable. The ruling will be appealed. And if history serves as a guide, the renewed threat to this remarkable landscape will reignite and unify the many interests across Montana that treasure the Badger-Two Medicine.
Interestingly, the judge issued no opinion on the legality of the leases that served as the basis of the Department of Interior’s cancellation decision in 2017. The leases were issued in 1981 with almost no real environmental review, no consideration for endangered species, and no meaningful consultation with the Blackfeet Nation. These facts remain and are not disputed by the leaseholders.
We do not accept the idea that these critical errors that led to the leasing of the Badger-Two Medicine should be dismissed because too much time has gone by. We do not accept the notion that just because you enter into a contract with the federal government that you have the right to benefit from the contract if it comes at the expense of an entire people, in this case the Blackfeet Nation who were denied their lawful right to participate in the agreement at all. The measure of fairness should also be weighed against decades of clear and ardent opposition to industrial development of the Badger-Two Medicine that resulted in numerous attempts and good-faith offers to buy, trade or otherwise negotiate just compensation for the legally and geologically suspect interests held by these leaseholders.
It’s important to remember that every other major energy company has yielded their interests in the Badger, recognizing, as Devon Energy did in a ceremony with Blackfeet leaders in the Interior Secretary’s office in 2016, that not drilling in the Badger is “the right thing to do.”
We do not accept the notion that just because you enter into a contract with the federal government that you have the right to benefit from the contract if it comes at the expense of an entire people.
It’s also important to remember that both the Obama and Trump administrations have recognized the sanctity of the Badger-Two Medicine, and that Sec. Zinke has gone so far as to recommend the Badger for national monument status. Based on that support, we fully expect the government to appeal this decision that constrains its authority to make public lands decisions on behalf of the public and to to correct past decisions that should never have been made.
We will fight to keep bulldozers out of the Badger-Two Medicine with every legally available tool. This unfortunate and misguided ruling is a setback, but we will persevere - and with your help - bring about a permanently protected Badger where the tremendous cultural and ecological values found there will endure long into the future.
In the meantime, please send a message to Secretary Zinke now asking him to stand with Montanans and the Blackfeet Nation and to defend Badger-Two Medicine.
- Casey Perkins, MWA central Montana field director