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Pine Creek Lake. Photo by Walker Stole
Oct 13 2015

Some Perspective on a Recent Badger-Two Medicine Ruling

The issue is a lot bigger than the opinion of one faraway judge

Featured, In the Media

Last Thursday, after soundly berating the Department of Justice attorney two days earlier in his courtroom, U.S. District Court Judge Leon issued a ruling ordering the federal government to submit a decision to cancel a gas lease in the Badger-Two Medicine or lift its suspension by November 23, 2015.

After a lot of bluster in the courtroom, he shortened the government’s proposed timeline for issuing their decision by a mere seven days.

No one disagrees that the government has taken more than enough time to come to a legal conclusion regarding drilling in the Badger-Two Medicine. The Blackfeet and a growing number of their supporters have also waited long enough for the government to make a decision on the Badger. Of course, the only acceptable decision the government could make is to cancel all remaining and oil gas leases in this area held sacred by the Blackfeet people.

The troubling news is not that Judge Leon ordered the government to expedite its decision on the Badger. What is troubling is that Judge Leon, who has repeatedly suggested that he finds lease cancellation legally suspect, insinuated that he would weigh in on more that just the government’s timeline for making a decision over drilling in the Badger. If the government decides to cancel, he warned that he might also rule on that decision.

Certainly, the government has had more than a sneaking suspicion all along that the legal merits of its decision – to cancel or not to cancel – would be challenged in the courtroom no matter how it decides. Hopefully, Judge Leon’s threat to intervene on lease cancellation will not weaken its resolve to do what’s right.

I am reminded that this fight will go on regardless of Judge Leon’s ruling, or perhaps in spite of it. This effort is much bigger than one hostile judge and even bigger than the shortsighted, culturally tone-deaf question of whether a Louisiana oilman has waited long enough to drill in a place as crucial to a Native culture as the Badger is.

The protection of Badger-Two Medicine cuts straight to the quick of what is right and how we want to see ourselves as Americans. Do we want to celebrate destruction and desecration? Or do we want to take a small step towards redemption by rectifying long-ago made mistakes while we still have the opportunity?

If there were any time to speak up for the Badger, it's now. Please let Seceretary Sally Jewell know that, no matter what Judge Leon says, the right thing for the Department of Interior to do is cancel all remaining leases in the Badger. Contact her at feedback@ios.doi.gov.

- Casey Perkins, MWA Rocky Mountain Front field director