Badger-Two Medicine: Too Sacred to Drill
November 24, 2015
Browning, MT - The U.S. Department of the Interior has announced its intention to cancel the Solenex LLC oil and gas lease in the Badger-Two Medicine roadless area.
This decision echoes the call by many that the Badger-Two Medicine region – a vital wildland link connecting the Bob Marshall Wilderness with Glacier National Park, and an indispensable stronghold of Blackfeet culture – should not be industrialized by roads, bridges and drill rigs.
Conservation groups, including Y2Y, responded to this step forward with enthusiasm. “It’s so satisfying to see our country’s leadership on the right side of history,” said Kendall Flint, president of local conservation group, Glacier-Two Medicine Alliance. “This is 2015, and our nation is finally having these vital conversations about diversity, identity, culture and landscape. It would be a tragedy to industrialize the last refuge of Blackfeet lifeways and tradition, and it would be heartbreaking to dismantle our last best wildlands in the hope of exporting profits to a few out-of-state developers.”
The Department of the Interior under Secretary James Watt granted the leases in the 130,000-acre Badger-Two Medicine in the early 1980s, sparking immediate and prolonged opposition from local residents, conservationists and the Blackfeet Nation, who have since maintained the leases were issued illegally, violating bedrock environmental laws, and without required Tribal consultation.
Since the misguided leasing of more than 150,000 public-land acres in this region, many companies have voluntarily retired their holdings, citing the Badger-Two Medicine’s world-class natural and cultural treasures.
“It’s rewarding and humbling, actually, to see the many people who have come together, from so many different walks of life, on behalf of the Badger-Two Medicine,” said Casey Perkins, of the Montana Wilderness Association. “The fact that the Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior came to this very welcome conclusion is no accident. People such as Senator Tester and Governor Bullock have shown real leadership in joining the countless Montana voices who have called for protection of this remarkable region.”
Now that Interior has announced its intention, Solenex will have 10 days to respond.
“Through this decision, the United States government has righted a longstanding moral and legal wrong,” said Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso. “But while the right decision has been made, the leases are not yet canceled and the fight is not over. We stand ready to take whatever steps remain necessary to ensure that the threat of industrial development in the Badger-Two Medicine region is eliminated once and for all.”
And while conservationists applauded Monday’s long-awaited decision, they recognize there is much work to be done before all of the remaining leases are finally canceled, once and for all.
- Tim Preso, Earthjustice, (406) 586-9699
- Kendall Flint, Glacier-Two Medicine Alliance, (406) 226-4699 (home); (406) 450-8790 (cell)
- Jennifer Ferenstein, The Wilderness Society, (406) 544-5987
- Casey Perkins, Montana Wilderness Association, (406) 544-1093
- Michael Jamison, National Parks Conservation Association, (406) 250-2540