Groups appeal Badger-Two Medicine oil and gas lease decision

The Pikuni Traditionalists Association, a group representing the cultural and religious interests of the Blackfeet tribe, appealed a decision reinstate a federal oil and gas lease in Badger-Two Medicine.

Today’s appeal represents the latest development in a 40-year saga over federal energy permits in a 165,000-acre region of the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest, often described as the tribe’s spiritual homeland. of the Blackfeet.

The Badger-Two Medicine features in Blackfeet creation stories, provides tribal members with traditional foods and medicines, and serves as a corridor for wildlife traveling between Glacier National Park, the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, and the Indian Reservation. of the Blackfeets. It is designated a traditional cultural district and closed to motorized recreation.

Solanex, based in Louisiana, is seeking to build a temporary well pad and bridges in the Badger Two-Medicine for oil and gas drilling with a lease that has figured in administrative, court and legislative fights for decades.

The Clinton administration suspended the 6,200-acre lease in 1993, a move subsequent administrations have repeated under pressure from conservationists and tribal officials seeking to halt energy development in the area.

Congress passed a bill in 2006 that prohibited future leasing of the Badger-Two Medicine and incentivized remaining tenants to give up their leases. A decade later, the federal government canceled the Solanex leaseand Solanex challenged the revocation of the lease in court.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon of Washington, D.C., sided with Solanex in his Sept. 9 ruling, reprimanding the Department of the Interior for subjecting the company to “an endless series of administrative reviews “. [that] banned all activity for almost forty years.


Shared State: Who decides the future of Badger Two-Medicine?

For many Montana residents, Badger-Two medicine is synonymous with one of the most significant conservation successes of decades. This story is about Blackfeet tribal traditionalists, political leaders, and conservation groups who come together to defeat oil and gas claims in an undeveloped wilderness of Montana. Now the coalition is faced with thorny questions: what does long-term protection and management of the badger look like, and who decides?

Leon rejected the federal government’s claim that drilling and building roads in the area would compromise the ecological and cultural value of the area by her decision canceling the termination of the lease. Leon claimed the lease was properly issued and the federal government functionally “waived” any right to cancel it.

The responders-defendants planned their intention to appeal Leon’s decision following the ruling, with Blackfeet Historic Preservation Officer John Murray telling Montana Public Radio “the fight is far from over. finished” in a September 13 article on the legal battle over the last remaining lease in Badger-Two medicine. They delivered on that commitment with the November 2 filing.

“The Blackfoot Confederacy, the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council, which represents the tribes of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, and the National Congress of American Indians all stand with the Blackfoot Nation “said Tyson Running Wolf, member of the Pikuni Traditionalist Association and state representative. , D-Browning, said in a Nov. 2 emailed statement about the call. “We will never cede sacred ground to those who would defile it. And it’s not just about Indian Country, for decades now both Republican and Democratic administrations have backed a no-lease badger because the place matters to everyone in Montana.

The Blackfeet-Headwaters Alliance, Glacier Two-Medicine Alliance, National Parks Conservation Association, Wilderness Society and Wild Montana (formerly Montana Wilderness Association) have joined the call.

“Drilling in prime grizzly bear and elk habitat and a traditional cultural district makes no moral, environmental or economic sense and never will. Just as we have helped other tenants find retirement solutions that preserve the land and their businesses, we remain committed to exploring reasonable settlement options with Solanex,” said Peter Metcalf, Executive Director of Glacier-Two Medicine Alliance. , in the press release.

The statement goes on to say that parties opposed to the Badger-Two Medicine lease have made “several attempts” to settle the matter with Solanex, offering a range of alternatives including cash buyouts, tax credits, land swaps or access to tribal oil and gas fields.

David McDonald, an attorney with the Mountain States Legal Foundation, the law firm representing Solanex in the lawsuit, said his clients were waiting for the call but remained “excited and energized” by Leon’s decision.

“We’re ready to do whatever it takes to make this lease finally productive,” McDonald said.

In 2020, the United States Senator Jon Tester introduced the Badger-Two Medicine Protection Act, which sought, among other things, to make the current ban on road construction permanent and to prevent the construction of any additional buildings, pipelines or water installations in the area. He stalled in committee.

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