Fight Over Rocky Mountain Front Reignited with Lease Auction

By Beacon Staff

BILLINGS – The decades-long fight over Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front is heating up again, with wildlife officials and private conservation groups seeking to stop the leasing of state-owned land in the area for oil and gas development.

It’s been a year-and-a-half since drilling opponents declared victory on the picturesque, wildlife-rich Front. In December 2006, Congress approved a permanent ban on energy development on federal land in the region.

Since then, millions of dollars have been spent by private groups and the government to purchase conservation easements and leases held by energy companies.

But leasing beneath state-owned lands continues. Montana’s Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks and two conservation groups have asked state land officials to defer a planned June 10 auction of about 700 acres along the Front.

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