Final oil & gas lease to be relinquished in Montana’s Badger-Two Medicine region

Badger-Two Medicine Region
Badger-Two Medicine Region

Finally! Solonex has given up the remaining oil and gas lease in the Badger-Two Medicine region.

From the official USDA press release . . .

WASHINGTON – The Departments of Agriculture and the Interior today announced that, as part of a settlement with the sole remaining lessee, the final federal oil and gas lease in the Badger-Two Medicine area will be relinquished. This significant milestone, decades in the making, will help ensure that the natural and cultural resources on the ancestral homelands of the Blackfeet Nation are protected.

“The Badger-Two Medicine area is a place of profound cultural and spiritual importance to the people of the Blackfeet Nation,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Today’s action will protect this land for this generation and generations to come, and serves as a marker of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to protecting treasured pieces of our national heritage like the Badger-Two Medicine area.”

“The Badger-Two Medicine area continues to have cultural and religious significance to the Blackfeet Nation, which has stewarded that land since time immemorial. Oil and gas development would have had irreparable impacts on these sacred homelands. Today’s action closes the chapter on development threats to this special place and recognizes the importance of protecting these lands for future generations,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “The Biden-Harris administration is committed to working with Tribes to protect Indigenous homelands and ensure the preservation of their natural and cultural resources.”

The Badger-Two Medicine area encompasses approximately 130,000 pristine acres in Lewis and Clark National Forest, adjacent to Glacier National Park, two wilderness areas, and the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Badger-Two Medicine was once a part of the Reservation. Although it was ceded in 1896, the Badger-Two Medicine area continues to have cultural and religious significance to the Blackfeet Nation, which has consistently raised concerns about development in the area.



The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management issued 47 federal oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine area in 1982, but an environmental impact statement was never prepared prior to the issuance of an application for permit to drill. This led to several years of litigation – and the cancellation of the lease in 2016 by then-Secretary Sally Jewell, followed by further litigation – during which time the lease remained suspended.

Congress permanently withdrew the entire area from oil and gas leasing, subject to valid existing rights, in 2006, providing tax incentives for existing lessees who voluntarily relinquished their leases. One remaining lessee did not voluntarily relinquish its lease until today’s settlement agreement.

In 2002, a portion of the Badger-Two Medicine area was established as a Traditional Cultural District, and in 2014, based on additional documentation provided by the Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Forest Service, that area was expanded to encompass approximately 165,000 acres, including the lands covered by the leases.

Grizzlies roam, but where? A new study offers clues

Grizzly bear strolling along a road
Grizzly Bear strolling along a road

Here’s a very interesting write-up on a study of how grizzly bears disperse across the landscape . . .

If you were a grizzly bear on the move, where would you go and how would you get there?

According to a new study released this month by University of Montana’s Sarah Sells, you’d primarily favor mountainous areas but would also follow waterways through open valley landscapes. But your destination would depend in large part on where you started, and whether you were on a mission to go somewhere else or simply exploring beyond your home range.

The conclusions came from a modeling program that predicted pathways through Montana between the bears’ current core habitat areas. The two biggest, each with about a thousand grizzlies, are the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem around Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem surrounding Yellowstone National Park.

Continue reading at the Missoulian . . .

Judge rules in favor of Montana youths climate lawsuit

Our own Roger Sullivan was heavily involved with this and gets a well-deserved check-mark in the “win” column . . .

In the first ruling of its kind nationwide, a Montana state court decided Monday in favor of young people who alleged the state violated their right to a “clean and healthful environment” by promoting the use of fossil fuels.

The court determined that a provision in the Montana Environmental Policy Act has harmed the state’s environment and the young plaintiffs, by preventing Montana from considering the climate impacts of energy projects. The provision is accordingly unconstitutional, the court said.

The win, experts say, could energize the environmental movement and reshape climate litigation across the country, ushering in a wave of cases aimed at advancing action on climate change.

Continue reading . . .

Montana proposes reduction in wolf hunt quota from 450 to 289

Wolf near Winona Lake, May 2013 - Steve Gniadek
Wolf near Winona Lake, May 2013 – Steve Gniadek

This is interesting — and encouraging — news . . .

Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks are proposing to reduce the hunting quota for wolves statewide from 450 to 289, according to the department and an interview with a spokesperson.

FWP said the wolf population has dropped in the last two years, and it believes the new quota will keep wolves at a healthy and sustainable population per state law.

“State law, set by the 2021 Montana Legislature, requires FWP to reduce wolf populations in Montana to a sustainable level,” said Greg Lemon, FWP public information officer. “We believe the quota of 289 wolves will meet that statutory requirement while ensuring a healthy wolf population in the state.”

This announcement comes a year after the wolf numbers fell in 2022, according to the 2022 FWP Wolf Report.

Continue reading . . .

NFPA Annual Meeting, Sat., July 22, at Sondreson Hall!

For this year’s annual meeting we’ve invited Liz Fairbanks, a Road Ecologist at The Center for Large Landscapes, to help us better understand the role a road (or road systems) plays in an ecosystem.

We would love for you to be among our honored guests.

  5:30pm Potluck supper
  6:45pm Short business meeting to elect officers and members of the Board of Directors and report on the work of NFPA
  7:30pm Speaker

We are excited to spend an evening with all of you, share with you what we’ve been up to, and look forward to a great presentation.

Wolf management plan should be informed by science

Gray wolf - John and Karen Hollingsworth, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Gray wolf – John and Karen Hollingsworth, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Last Saturday’s (June 17) Bozeman Daily Chronicle carried a guest column by Douglas W. Smith and our own Diane Boyd on the importance of using  accurate, science-based methods  in wolf management . . .

This summer offers a timely opportunity to help craft a new wolf management plan being written by Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks (MTFWP). Wolves are always controversial, and this new plan is an opportunity to reinstate scientifically-based wildlife management. We are concerned that, of late, Montana has managed wolves in a fashion that emphasizes population reductions without clear evidence or adequate justification. Montana has provided for hunter and trapper opportunity and, despite misconceptions about wolf-elk interactions, elk have maintained healthy populations across the state and are even overabundant in some game management units. Livestock depredations are very low, less than 1/10 of 1 percent of all cattle losses in 2021.

The fundamental issue is an accurate population estimate — all wildlife management decisions depend on this. Wolves are hard to count. Initially Montana estimated numbers by MTFWP staff conducting field work along with radio collaring to come up with a minimum count of wolves across the western third of the state where most wolves live. As wolf numbers grew this method became impractical, so the state switched to a method that estimates numbers based on wolf sightings by hunters with resulting data plugged into a model. This model, called an integrated Patch Occupancy Model or iPOM, uses some other information about wolves like territory size and pack size, and calculates a population estimate.

This method is well-known and respected scientifically for estimating distribution (the area occupied). It is not known to be a good abundance estimator. The rationale is that Montana wolves are thought to be well above the required minimum set by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, hence a precise estimate is not necessary. For scientifically based management of a high-profile predator, we need a better population estimate.

Continue reading at the Bozeman Daily Chronicle . . .

Bear resistant containers available for loan or purchase

Grizzly trying to open Kodiak Can
Grizzly trying to open Kodiak Can

NFPA/Polebridge Bear Smart is offering Kodiak brand 96 gallon bear resistant garbage containers for loan or purchase at a reduced price. This opportunity is being made to the Polebridge community with the help of grants and private donations.

Purchase price per canister is $300.
Canister Loan Program fee is on an able-to-pay basis.

Kodiak Can

Cans are available now! Please contact Suzanne Hildner or (406) 253-3263 to purchase or rent.


Help the Polebridge Community be BEAR SMART!!

Polebridge Bear Smart program receives grant from Vital Ground

Grizzly bears, gaping mawsNFPA is excited to announce that we are the recipient of a Vital Ground Partner Grant for our Polebridge Bear Smart program. These funds will help us expand our seasonal employee training, aid in our efforts to help short term rentals owners educate their guests about living and recreating safely in bear country and initiate a rapid response program in connection with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to help property owners discourage bears from becoming habituated. We are honored and delighted to be partnering with Vital Ground  in this effort.

Landmark youth climate trial begins in Montana

Our own Roger Sullivan gets a mention! . . .

A landmark climate change trial opened on Monday in Montana, where a group of young people are contending that the state’s embrace of fossil fuels is destroying pristine environments, upending cultural traditions and robbing young residents of a healthy future.

The case, more than a decade in the making, is the first of a series of similar challenges pending in various states as part of an effort to increase pressure on policymakers to take more urgent action on emissions.

Continue reading at the New York Times . . .

Appeals court rules in favor of Flathead Forest management plan

Flathead National Forest - view of Whitefish Divide
Flathead National Forest – view of Whitefish Divide

Following an updated assessment by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service,  the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the 2018 Flathead Forest management plan. . .

An appeals court has decided that the Flathead National Forest management plan adequately addresses endangered species, now that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service updated its assessment of the plan.

On Friday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals filed a five-page memorandum in favor of the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, agreeing with federal district court Judge Donald Molloy that the Flathead National Forest properly considered public challenges to its 2018 Management Plan so the plan can stand.

“Therefore, the Forest Service did not ignore any adverse impact of the (final environmental impact statement on grizzly bears and bull trout) and took ‘the requisite hard look’ at the environmental consequences of its actions, regardless whether Swan View agrees with its scientific conclusion,” the three-judge panel wrote.

Continue reading at the Missoula Current . . .