HELENA — The U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on September 1, 2023, that the last oil and gas lease in the Badger-Two Medicine area has been canceled.
The area has significant cultural importance to the Blackfeet Tribe.
The Badger-Two Medicine area covers about 130,000 acres adjacent to Glacier National Park and was once a part of the Blackfeet Reservation.
The oil and gas leases date back to the early 1980s. That is when the federal Bureau of Land Management released 47 leases in the area.
According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, the lack of an Environment Impact Statement (EIS) before issuing drilling permits sparked years of litigation.
Congress would end up withdrawing the area from future oil and gas leases in 2006 and offered tax incentives for companies who voluntarily withdrew.
Obama administration Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell canceled the remaining two leases in 2014 sending the issue back to court. Leaseholder Moncrief Oil and Gas Master withdrew their lease in 2019 as part of a settlement, leaving Solenex, LLC the last remaining leaseholder.
Solenex agreed last week to release its lease.
Wild Montana said in a news release: "The 6,247-acre lease held by Solenex was one of 47 oil and gas leases originally issued by the Reagan Administration in the Badger-Two Medicine in the early 1980s. With today’s settlement agreement, all of these leases in the area have now been permanently eliminated without any development having occurred, ending the threat of drilling in this wild, roadless area once and for all."
The Blackfeet Tribal Business Council said in a news release: "The settlement agreement rights a fundamental wrong by removing industry’s hold on one of our Nation’s most significant areas. The Badger-Two Medicine is our last refuge. It is a sacred place, a cultural touchstone, a repository of heritage, a living cultural landscape, a hunting ground and a sanctuary for wild nature. It is vital to the people who rely upon it, critical to the wildlife that depends upon it, and has an inherent value and power of its own."
In 2002 a portion of the Badger-Two Medicine area was designated a Traditional Cultural District. The government expanded the district in 2014 to include the areas of the now canceled leases.
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