Tester Goes to Bat for the Badger-Two Medicine, Again
For the second week in a row, our senior senator champions wild and storied lands on the Crown of the Continent
Last week, he reintroduced the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act. Yesterday, Senator Tester introduced a Senate resolution calling on Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to uphold the Interior Department’s commitment to the Blackfeet Nation and defend its cancellation of oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine.
Sacred to the Blackfeet people (Niitsitapi), the Badger-Two Medicine is an area bounded by the Blackfeet Reservation, Glacier National Park, and the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Home to grizzly bears, wolverines, westslope cutthroat trout, and so many other species, the Badger area is as wild as any on the Crown of the Continent and is the last unprotected wildland along the Rocky Mountain Front.
It’s also an area the Blackfeet have been using for thousands of year. As John Murray, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Blackfeet Tribe, says: the Badger-Two Medicine is “a cornerstone of our history and our culture.”
Tester introduced the resolution today because the Department of the Interior under David Bernhardt reneged on a commitment that Secretary Sally Jewell and later Secretary Ryan Zinke made to the Blackfeet to keep oil and gas development out of the Badger.
In 2016 and 2017, the Interior Department cancelled all remaining oil and gas leases in recognition that the government had violated the National Environmental Policy Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, and other bedrock environmental laws when it issued the leases in the 1980s. One the largest lease-holders in the Badger, Devon Energy, voluntarily relinquished its leases in 2016, stating “it was the right thing to do.”
Solenex LLC and Moncrief Oil challenged the cancellation of their leases in a Washington, D.C. district court. In 2017, the court ruled in favor of both companies. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke afterwards vowed to appeal the decision of both cases.
Days before his confirmation hearing as Interior secretary, acting Secretary David Bernhardt pulled the department out of its appeal of the Moncrief decision (though not the Solenex decision). Sen. Tester’s resolution calls on Bernhardt to continue with the appeal.
We can’t thank Senator Tester enough for standing up for the Blackfeet and for all Montanans. Please join us in thanking him for championing the Badger-Two Medicine and for reintroducing the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act.
- Joe Offer, MWA central Montana field director