As former superintendents of Glacier National Park, we have long recognized that decisions made within Glacier’s boundaries affect our neighbors throughout the Crown of the Continent, and vice versa. Two of Glacier’s largest and most influential neighbors are the U.S. Forest Service and the Blackfeet Nation, and at the intersection of our shared “property line” is a 160,000-acre parcel known as the Badger-Two Medicine.
For more than 30 years, oil and gas companies have sought to exploit the Badger-Two Medicine for energy production. The Blackfeet Nation has steadfastly insisted that such industrialization cannot be mitigated, and that existing exploration leases should be canceled and, perhaps, moved elsewhere. We concur, and support the Tribe’s position in favor of canceling of all existing leases.
While the Badger-Two Medicine is located on the Lewis & Clark National Forest, it is culturally linked to the Blackfeet Nation and ecologically connected to Glacier National Park. Vital wildlife habitats and migratory corridors connect across these boundaries in a complex and critical web. Sensitive and iconic species including grizzly bears, wolves, wolverines, elk, mountain goats and westslope cutthroat trout travel across jurisdictional lines on the map, making the Badger-Two Medicine an indispensable part of their seasonal range.
Additionally, the Badger-Two Medicine is considered a most sacred landscape by the Blackfeet Nation. It is the place of their origin stories, and where they received the sacred Sun Dance. The entire area has been determined to be an eligible “Traditional Cultural District” – home to ancient and current vision sites, as well as approximately 150 documented sites for hunting/gathering, offerings, scouting, ceremonies, and more. Many more of these sites also are found on adjacent park, forest, and tribal lands.
Glacier National Park managers have actively engaged in discussions about the fate of the Badger-Two Medicine for the past 30 years. Since energy leases were granted in 1982, many important steps have been taken toward responsible stewardship of this area: retirement of most oil/gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine; passage of the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act; completion of the Montana Legacy Project; passage of the North Fork Watershed Protection Act; completion of a non-motorized travel plan; and a host of historic international conservation agreements. Amid these victories there remains one stubborn outlier: the anomaly of the 1982 oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine. Many companies have moved their leases elsewhere, recognizing the world-class natural and cultural resources at stake. A few have not, and insist on industrializing this last untrammeled bastion of Blackfeet religion and culture.
At the same time the Badger-Two Medicine leases were granted, similar park-adjacent leases were granted on Glacier National Park’s western boundary – under the same analysis and review template. Those were found to be in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act and Endangered Species Act, and were vacated by the courts. The Badger-Two Medicine leases are likewise flawed, but were not litigated and so remain in place.
Throughout all these years of dispute, the Blackfeet Nation has not wavered: The Badger-Two Medicine is sacred ground. They have made many good-faith efforts to swap or to buy out these remaining leases – because they maintain that due to the fragile and pristine nature of the Badger-Two Medicine and Blackfeet culture, industrial development cannot be mitigated.
We agree. Industrial energy development of this world-class resource would represent an intolerable assault to the ecological and cultural values of Glacier National Park, as well as to the Blackfeet people.
On behalf of the millions of visitors who cherish the Crown of the Continent, and on behalf of our colleagues whose careers were spent working for the best interests of Glacier National Park, we ask the Department of Interior to exercise its authority to cancel the Badger-Two Medicine leases.
Phillip Iverson, Robert Haraden, H. Gilbert Lusk, Suzanne Lewis, Michael (Mick) Holm, Chas Cartwright
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.