The Blackfeet are keeping up the pressure in the fight over drilling leases in the Badger-Two Medicine region . . .
While a decades-long legal struggle over energy exploration in the Badger-Two Medicine revolves around its sacred nature to the Blackfeet Indians, it wasn’t until this week that the tribe officially asked to join the fight.
Blackfeet tribal leaders joined several conservation groups in requesting intervener status in the case between Solenex LLC and the U.S. Department of the Interior before U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon in Washington, D.C. Two months ago, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell accepted a recommendation from the U.S. Forest Service to cancel Solenex’s drilling leases on 6,200 acres of public land just south of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Solenex asked Leon to overrule the decision and reinstate the leases.
“Those representing traditional Blackfeet culture did not have a seat at the table 30 years ago when the federal government leased our sacred lands for a dollar an acre,” said John Murray of the Pikuni Traditionalist Association. “This intervention is important to ensure that those representing traditional Blackfeet culture have a seat at the table now as the court considers the validity of the government’s effort to correct that 30-year-old mistake.”
As expected, Solonex has challenged the cancellation of their oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine. The paperwork was filed last Friday . . .
A Louisiana company challenged the cancellation of an oil and gas lease in northwest Montana on Friday, after federal officials said drilling would disturb an area sacred to the Blackfoot tribes of the U.S. and Canada.
The 6,200-acre lease owned by Solenex LLC of Baton Rouge is in the Badger-Two Medicine area of the Lewis and Clark National Forest. It’s just outside Glacier National Park and the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.
Attorneys for the company want U.S. District Judge Richard Leon in Washington, D.C., to reject the Interior Department’s March 17 cancellation of the lease.
The Obama administration has cancelled a disputed oil and gas lease in the Badger-Two Medicine area near Glacier National Park.
Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced Thursday the Bureau of Land Management has cancelled the 6,200-acre lease in the Lewis and Clark National Forest. The lease, currently held by Solonex LLC, was issued by the BLM in 1982 on land considered sacred to the Blackfeet tribes of the U.S. and Canada.
The cancellation is expected to be challenged in federal court by Solenex, a Louisiana company seeking to drill for oil and gas.
The BLM concluded the Solonex lease was improperly issued in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historical Preservation Act. The agency consulted with the U.S. Forest Service, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, Blackfeet Tribe, leaseholder and others, according to federal officials.
The Hungry Horse News has a nice summary of the battle over drilling leases in the Badger-Two Medicine . . .
The battle over oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine will continue. The Department of Interior and Solonex, the company that owns the leases had asked U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon to suspend the case so the two parties could negotiate a settlement in the 30-plus year battle. But those talks have fallen apart.
Now Solonex, in a brief to the court on Jan. 19, claims that any attempt to cancel the leases by the DOI would be arbitrary and contrary to federal law. Solonex is represented by the Mountain States Legal Foundation, a nonprofit that often takes up private business and citizens issues in land use disputes in federal court.
The DOI in December said it tentatively planned on canceling the leases altogether, claiming the U.S. Forest Service never did a proper examination of the impacts on Blackfeet Tribe cultural resources when it sold the leases in 1981.
Here’s an important message from our friends at the Montana Wilderness Association for anyone concerned about the potential for drilling activities in the Badger-Two Medicine region. Note that Debo Powers (firstname.lastname@example.org) is organizing a car pool to attend the meeting in Choteau . . .
On September 2, 2015, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) travels to Choteau, Montana to hear from the public about proposed oil and gas development in the Badger-Two Medicine. ACHP is an independent federal agency that promotes the preservation, enhancement, and productive use of our nation’s historic resources. In this case, the council will advise the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) whether the negative impacts of proposed drilling in the Badger-Two Medicine can be mitigated to avoid damaging the Badger’s sacred, cultural, and historical values.
We have a very simple message for the ACHP: any development in the Badger-Two Medicine will bring irreparable damage. The only recommendation the ACHP can make for preventing damage and desecration to this sacred area is this: Cancel the illegal leases.
We need your help to make this message loud and clear to the ACHP.
The USFS must consider ACHP’s recommendation in making its final determination about oil and gas drilling in the Badger. If the ACHP tells the USFS that the agency should carefully consider lease cancellation because the impacts cannot be mitigated, it strongly bolsters the case we have been making – that lease cancellation is the only good option for the Badger. But if ACHP proposes that the development can somehow be mitigated to decrease damage to the cultural property, it leaves the door open for drilling across the Badger. Encouragingly, the USFS last week recognized, in its response to a U.S. District court order, that cancellation is an option the agency could pursue.
The ACHP needs to hear from all Montanans about why the Badger-Two Medicine is an invaluable piece of Blackfeet, Montana, and American history.
We’re asking people to attend the meeting in Choteau on Wednesday, September 2 or else submit a written comment to ACHP, or both.
The meeting takes place in Choteau on September 2 from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Stage Stop Inn, 1005 Main Ave. North.
ANYONE WHO WOULD LIKE TO CARPOOL FROM THE NORTH FORK TO CHOTEAU ON SEPTEMBER 2 TO ATTEND THIS MEETING, PLEASE CONTACT DEBO AT email@example.com
If you would like to speak at the meeting, you can pre-register to do so by contacting Katry Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org. People who have not pre-registered will be allowed to speak if time permits.
Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
401 F Street, NW, Suite 308,
Washington, D.C. 20001-2637
All comments must be submitted by 3 p.m. (MST), September 4, 2015.
Here are some comment suggestions:
The Badger-Two Medicine area holds significant cultural and historical importance to the Blackfeet people, to the people of Montana, and to all citizens. Sacred lands should be protected from industrialization for posterity. What does the Badger mean to you and your family?
The Badger-Two Medicine is a living cultural landscape and an intact ecosystem. Its cultural value cannot be separated from its ecological integrity.
The ACHP should avoid making recommendations that suggest that the negative impacts of oil and gas exploration can be mitigated or avoided, because that is not possible.
The only option to avoid permanent damage to the Badger-Two Medicine is to not drill and to encourage the federal land managers to work together to cancel all of the remaining leases.
– Casey Perkins, MWA’s Rocky Mountain Front field director
The Blackfeet continue to fight attempts to drill in the Badger-Two Medicine region . . .
An American Indian tribe in Montana has taken the rare step of breaking off formal talks with the U.S. government and a Louisiana company that has been seeking for decades to drill for natural gas on land considered sacred by the Blackfeet people.
Blackfeet tribal leaders said that after three rounds of negotiations, they remain steadfast in their opposition to drilling in the Badger-Two Medicine area outside Glacier National Park and see no benefit to further discussions.
“We are not going to speak to anything other than no development,” said Blackfeet Tribal Historic Preservation Officer John Murray.
Another volley in the fight over oil drilling in the Badger-Two Medicine region . . .
A Louisiana company is asking a judge to resolve its lawsuit challenging the government’s suspension of an oil and gas lease near Montana’s Glacier National Park so the company can begin drilling this summer.
The 6,200-acre lease is on land sacred to the Blackfoot tribes of the U.S. and Canada. It was suspended by the U.S. Interior Department in the 1990s along with dozens of other leases in the area.
Over the years, most of the leases were retired or surrendered, and now only 18 remain, covering more than 40,000 acres in the Badger-Two Medicine area south of Glacier.
Renewed concerns about oil exploration along the Rocky Mountain Front . . .
A series of new oil exploration leases on the border of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation and Glacier National Park has renewed the anger and motivation of those opposed to energy development along the Rocky Mountain Front.
The leases were found last week among records held by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs. They include nine lease blocks, two of which include a portion of Chief Mountain — the square-shaped landmark mountain along the eastern border of the national park.
The Daily Inter Lake has a story about boom and bust oil exploration in Montana, including its beginnings in 1901 near Kintla Lake . . .
The history of oil in Montana began in an area that never had any substantial development of the natural resource — the Flathead Valley.
The state’s first oil well was drilled by Butte Oil Co. in 1901 in the Kintla Lake area that’s now part of Glacier National Park.
American Indians and fur trappers knew about oil seeps in that area and early-day prospectors wondered about the potential for oil when bear hides sold at Tobacco Plains smelled of kerosene, according to a historical overview of mining in Montana compiled by the U.S. Forest Service.
The Hungry Horse News has a short article on all the excitement 60 years ago surrounding oil exploration efforts in the North Fork just over the line in Canada at Sage Creek . . .
Large headlines in August 1951 declared oil drilling would start in the North Fork. This was exciting news with hopes for commercial quantities, new road punched through to the rest of Canada, economic values on the undeveloped valley between primitive mountain areas.
It was reported the oil drilling venture culminated nearly 50 years of drilling by stock supported companies. Drilling was for Petroleum Oil Co., which had a number of producing wells in Alberta.