Groups encourage Sen. Daines and Rep. Gianforte to support the resolution aimed at keeping oil and gas development out of area sacred to the Blackfeet Nation.
Bozeman, Mont. – Several groups representing conservation and sportsmen interests in Montana applaud a resolution that Senator Jon Tester released this morning calling on the Department of the Interior to uphold its commitment to the Blackfeet Nation and defend its cancellation of oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine, an area sacred to the Blackfeet people and one they have used for thousands of years.
The 163,000-acre Traditional Cultural District adjoins Glacier National Park, the Bob Marshall Wilderness, and the Blackfeet Reservation in north-central Montana
“We thank Sen. Tester for holding the Department of the Interior to the commitment that it made to the Blackfeet Nation and to all Montanans,” says Kendall Flint, vice-president of Glacier-Two Medicine Alliance. “The Interior Department rightly canceled those old leases, ordered by prior Sec. Sally Jewell and reaffirmed by Sec. Ryan Zinke. They were illegal, to begin with, and their cancellation needs to be defended.”
In 2016 and 2017, the Interior Department canceled 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 afterward 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).
Now the Department of Interior is actively trying to block several groups – including Pikuni Traditionalist Association, Blackfeet Headwaters Alliance, Montana Wilderness Association, National Parks Conservation Association, The Wilderness Society, and Glacier-Two Medicine Alliance – from continuing their legal defense of the lease cancellations in federal court.
“By robbing the Blackfeet people of their right to defend themselves in court and refusing to uphold the cancellation of illegal oil and gas leases, the Department of the Interior is perpetuating the same mistakes it made 30 years ago,” said Michael Jamison, senior Glacier program manager at the National Parks Conservation Alliance. “We simply can’t stand by and allow such a history of injustice to repeat itself. We’re all fortunate for Senator Tester’s leadership as a committed champion of Blackfeet heritage, and a real friend to the people and places that make Montana so special.”
In addition to its importance to Blackfeet, the Badger-Two Medicine’s undeveloped landscape provides important wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities for many Montanans, both of which are threatened by Interior’s recent actions.
“For decades, Montana’s hunters and anglers have been advocating to keep oil and gas development out of the Badger-Two Medicine, which is vital habitat for elk, grizzly bears, westslope cutthroat trout, and other sensitive species,” says Marcus Strange, central Montana field representative at Montana Wildlife Federation. “We are calling on Sen. Daines and Rep. Gianforte to stand with the Blackfeet and with Montana’s hunters and anglers in protecting this one-of-a-kind area from development.”
Neither Daines nor Gianforte has publicly commented on where they stand on the threat of industrial development within the Badger-Two Medicine area.
“For several years now, Sen. Tester has been trying to right this terrible wrong that the government perpetrated against the Blackfeet Nation back in the 1980s,” says John Todd deputy director at Montana Wilderness Association. “We’re now urging Sen. Daines and Congressman Gianforte to stand with the Blackfeet and all other Montanans by publicly supporting Sen. Tester’s resolution.”