• Pine Creek Lake. Photo by Walker Stole

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Pine Creek Lake. Photo by Walker Stole
May 10 2016

MWA Intervenes on Behalf of Badger-Two Medicine

Conservation and tribal groups stand together to defend lease cancellation in this sacred area

Announcements, Featured

When Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell visited Montana last week to promote public lands and talk about her vision for the next 100 years of conservation, she also heard gratitude from Blackfeet leaders and MWA for boldly deciding to cancel the Solenex oil and gas lease in the Badger-Two Medicine.

It was the first time the Department of Interior (DOI) had ever cancelled an oil and gas lease over the objections of the leaseholder, and it demonstrated a commitment to reconsider past actions that have not been in the best interest of our public lands or our native people.

But the Solenex case hasn’t gone away with the cancelation. The fight to save the Badger from development is not over.

Just weeks after the cancelation, a Washington, D.C. District Court judge granted a motion by Solenex to amend its original complaint and challenge the authority of the government to cancel the lease.

We are confident the DOI did not make its decision lightly and is prepared to defend its own authority to act in the best interest of the Badger and other public lands.

The change in the legal facts of the case has created an opportunity for conservation and tribal organizations to renew our request to be party to the case. Today, MWA, The Wilderness Society, National Parks Conservation Association, Glacier Two Medicine Alliance, Blackfeet Headwaters Alliance, and the Pikuni Traditionalist Society filed a motion requesting to intervene on behalf of the government to help defend the cancellation and ensure the interests of our members are heard in the courtroom.

In a press release issued after the filing, Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso, who represents the conservation and tribal organizations intervening in the case, offered an explanation of this action. “We are asking for a seat at the table in Solenex’s legal case so that the judge hears from the Blackfeet people, community members, and conservationists who have been working to protect this irreplaceable region for decades,” he said.

MWA has been working on all fronts to defend to Badger from exploitation for decades. We sued the government in 1993 for granting a permit to drill on this illegally issued lease and we fought to intervene when Solenex first brought its lawsuit in 2013. Due to the recent cancellation, the 1993 lawsuit has been put back on the shelf, but it is more important than ever that conservation and tribal voices are heard back in Washington, D.C.

The outcome of this legal challenge will set the stage for action on the remaining 17 leases in the Badger-Two Medicine and will also set a precedent for similarly questionable leases throughout the West. MWA and our partners have been playing defense in this remarkable landscape for a long time, but thankfully the scales of justice have now tipped in our favor.

It is critical that we continue to stand together to defend the hard-fought ground we have gained and keep looking toward the next chapter of the story of Badger – free of oil and gas leases and permanently protected.

- Casey Perkins, Rocky Mountain Front field director