Final oil lease relinquished
The federal government today announced that the final federal oil and gas lease in Montana's 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 Interior Department said.
The Badger-Two Medicine area of northwest Montana has cultural and religious significance to the Blackfeet Indians, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said, and "this action closes the chapter on development threats to this special place and recognizes the importance of protecting these lands for future generations."
The Badger-Two Medicine area encompasses 130,000 acres in Montana's Lewis and Clark National Forest. The area is adjacent to Glacier National Park, two wilderness areas, and the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Browning, Montana. The 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.
BACKGROUND of the BADGER TWO MEDICINE
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 oversight 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, and gave 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.