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Pine Creek Lake. Photo by Walker Stole
Nov 23 2015

One Step Closer to Protection

Interior Department decides to cancel lease in Badger-Two Medicine

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Today, the Department of the Interior (DOI) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a decision to the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C., indicating that they intend to cancel the illegally-issued Solenex oil and gas lease in the wild and sacred Badger-Two Medicine area.

Readers may find the entire decision here.

In June of 2013, the Mountain States Legal Foundation filed a lawsuit on behalf of Louisiana-based lessee Sidney Longwell, of Solenex, LLC, seeking to lift the suspension on the Hall Creek lease. The lease was originally issued in 1982 and covers over 6,000 acres just south of Glacier National Park. The government has now determined that crucial mistakes were made in the issuance of this lease under the Reagan administration.

“The Secretary of the Interior has inherent authority, under her general managerial power over public lands, to cancel leases issued in violation of a statute or regulation… Although the BLM has not completed its decision making processes, it has tentatively concluded the Lease was issued without properly complying with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA),” officials wrote in the report to the court.

The DOI believes it will be able to accomplish lease cancellation by December 11th.

This decision follows on the heels of recent recommendations by Senator Tester, Governor Bullock, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to cancel all remaining leases in the area to prevent the desecration of Blackfeet culture and tradition that would result from development.

Please take a moment to thank these leaders for urging the right decision.

The DOI decision continues to state that, “the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and BLM failed to fully consider the effects of oil and gas development on cultural resources, including religious values and activities, within the Badger-Two Medicine area prior to lease issuance” the order notes. The Badger is the home of the Blackfeet Creation Story and a vital link between the history and future of Blackfeet society.

The Blackfeet people have been the true leaders for the Badger for decades. "For thousands of years, the Badger-Two Medicine has shaped the identity of our people," says Blackfeet Chief Earl Old Person. "I have always been told by our elders that our responsibility was to save those lands for our children and all future generations of Pikuni People."

The Montana Wilderness Association is proud to be partners in this honorable endeavor, joining forces with all who seek to protect clean headwaters, world-class wildlife habitat, quiet trails and places that are truly irreplaceable.

The DOI’s commitment to rectify an historic wrong was most certainly bolstered by the myriad voices calling for protection of the Badger, ranging from hundreds of Blackfeet residents to Montana’s senior Senator Jon Tester, who has championed this effort from the beginning.

We will now need these voices more than ever to ensure that the federal government follows through on this promise. It is unlikely that the powerful Mountain States Legal Foundation will take this decision lying down.

That is why we are calling on everyone who cares deeply about wild places and about the unique cultural values and important history of the Badger-Two Medicine to thank these courageous decision-makers and urge them to cancel all remaining oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine.

- Casey Perkins is MWA's Rocky Mountain Front field director. She writes from Choteau, MT.