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Home Wild Word The Fight for the Badger-Two Medicine Continues
Pine Creek Lake. Photo by Walker Stole
Apr 09 2019

The Fight for the Badger-Two Medicine Continues

With Interior refusing to defend a lease cancelation, MWA is prepared to go the distance for this cherished place

Featured, In the Media

Last week we received some surprising and disappointing news: The Department of the Interior (DOI) announced it would not defend its own cancellation of one of two leases remaining in the Badger-Two Medicine

That lease, owned by Moncrief Oil, was cancelled by the DOI in the last days of the Obama administration and is one of two leases that a Washington D.C. district court judge reinstated last September.

Thankfully, the DOI has filed briefs in the Washington D.C. Court of Appeals defending the cancelation of the other reinstated lease, owned by Solenex, LLC.

Moncrief does not have a drilling permit, nor has its lease undergone the environmental and cultural reviews that it would need before the government would issue the permit, which means that years and millions of dollars still stand in the way of Moncrief being able to drill in the Badger.

You can rest assured that MWA and our partners, including the Blackfeet Nation, will continue to stand up for the Badger and fight every attempt by Moncrief to drill in this special place. 

In the short term, MWA and our conservation partners will continue to serve as intervenors in support of the lease cancellations. We will also continue to work towards a solution that permanently protects the cultural and ecological values of this place the Blackfeet consider sacred. 
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We will use every tool available to keep this place of worship and refuge on the Rocky Mountain Front from being bulldozed and industrialized. We’ve been fighting this fight for more than 30 years, and we have no intention of giving in now.

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Nestled between Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area, the Badger-Two Medicine is the cradle of Blackfeet culture. It’s also a vital home to grizzly bears, Canada lynx, Westslope cutthroat trout, and all other species that make the Crown of the Continent one of the wildest landscapes in the Lower 48.

Since the 1980s, MWA and our tribal and conservation partners have fought for the protection of the Badger and challenged the legality of the leases, contending the government never conducted a proper environmental review or held meaningful consultations with the Blackfeet Nation.

In 2016, DOI cancelled the Solenex lease, having determined the government had violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act when it issued the lease in the 1980s. DOI also determined that, in issuing the lease, it had “failed to comport with the national policy to protect and preserve the rights of American Indians to exercise traditional religions, including access to important sites.” 

Later that year, the biggest lease-holder in the Badger, Devon Energy, voluntarily relinquished its leases, stating “it was the right thing to do.” DOI cancelled the last two remaining Badger leases, including Moncrief’s, a few months later in the last days of the Obama administration. 

Solenex and Moncrief both went on to challenge the cancellation of their leases.  In September 2017, Washington D.C. District Court Judge Richard Leon ruled in favor of Solenex and Moncrief and reinstated their leases, arguing the government had waited too long to cancel the leases. The judge offered no opinion on whether the government had legally issued the leases in the 1980s.

Ryan Zinke, who was Interior secretary at the time of Judge Leon’s ruling, vowed to appeal the decision, having touted the Badger as a good candidate for national monument status. Zinke resigned earlier this year, leaving in question DOI’s commitment to defend the Badger lease cancellation. 

Alongside our partners, we will use every tool available to keep this place of worship and refuge on the Rocky Mountain Front from being bulldozed and industrialized. We’ve been fighting this fight for more than 30 years, and we have no intention of giving in now.

- John Todd, MWA deputy director