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Badger-Two Medicine: A Sacred Place

The fight to protect Badger-Two Medicine heats up as energy interests push to drill for oil and gas.

Viewed as part of the larger Yellowstone to Yukon vision, Montana’s Badger-Two Medicine is a vitally important region that provides intact landscapes and critical habitat for wildlife roaming between protected areas in the U.S. and Canada. 

It features almost 130,000 acres of roadless terrain in the heart of the Crown of the Continent ecosystem, where the Rocky Mountains meet the Great Plains.

For the 17,000 tribal members of the Blackfeet Nation, whose ancestors have utilized the Badger-Two Medicine for more than 10,000 years, this region is sacred—an integral part of their cultural identity, and the location of their creation story.

Looking into Glacier National Park, Montana, from the Bison Lakes, Badger-Two Medicine region of the Lewis and Clark National Forest. Photo: Stephen Legault.

Together, those extraordinary natural and cultural qualities provide the impetus and justification for a decades-long effort to protect this region from further development, led by the Blackfeet Nation with help from a long list of conservation groups, such as the Crown of the Continent Conservation Initiative and others.

The following video, released by the Blackfeet Nation and members of Pearl Jam, reflects both the diversity of their supporters and, most importantly, the genuine passion the Blackfeet people feel for this sacred region.

Earlier this summer, the Blackfeet pulled out of talks with U.S. federal government negotiators, who were trying to find a compromise to allow some oil and gas exploration in the region; a compromise that tribal leaders are unwilling to accept under any circumstances. "We are not going to speak to anything other than no development," said John Murray, a Blackfeet Tribal Historic Preservation Officer.

In a legal battle that has dragged on for years, Blackfeet leaders say the remaining leases to drill in Badger-Two Medicine, held by Solenex LLC, a Louisiana-based company, were illegally awarded and should have been cancelled long ago. Since the contentious issue remained unresolved, drilling leases were suspended, but never cancelled.

That courtroom fight took a turn in July 2015, when a federal judge ordered the government to come up with a fixed schedule for lifting the suspension on drilling—a decision that could advance the efforts of Solenex to drill new roads, a four-acre drill pad and a bridge across the Two Medicine River—all on public lands across from Glacier National Park.

Map of Badger-Two Medicine, showing location of Solenex well site. Courtesy of Montana Wilderness Association.

Now representing the Blackfeet’s legal case in court, the law firm Earthjustice has long argued—to the public and in official letters to government officials—that original oil and gas leases in Badger-Two Medicine were illegal, and that the region should be protected for its cultural and ecological features, including federally protected wildlife species, such as grizzly bears and genetically pure westslope cutthroat trout.

“The remaining oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine were never validly issued in the first place,” said Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso. “They should be cancelled in the interest of preserving one of our country’s last great wild places and an irreplaceable spiritual home for the Blackfeet Nation.”

Although the recent ruling is a serious threat to all of the above, because it speeds up the process for ending the drilling suspension, Blackfeet leaders are confident that justice will prevail.

Click here to sign the petition for protecting Badger-Two Medicine.

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The rolling green and blue landscape of Badger-Two Medicine. Photo: Stephen Legault.