Interior Department Cancels Remaining Oil and Gas Leases in Badger-Two Medicine Area

The leases being canceled today were issued in the 1980s and have not had any drilling in the area

By Beacon Staff
Sunset over the Badger-Two Medicine area. Beacon file photo

The U.S. Department of the Interior announced the Bureau of Land Management has canceled the final two oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine area within the Lewis and Clark National Forest in Northwest Montana.

The two lease cancellations address outstanding concerns about the potential for oil and gas development in this culturally and ecologically important area. The cancellations come on the heels of U.S. officials cancelling other 15 oil and gas leases in the area.

“We are proud to have worked alongside the Blackfeet Nation and the U.S. Forest Service throughout this process to roll back decades-old leases and reinforce the importance of developing resources in the right way and the right places.” said Secretary Sally Jewell. “The cancellation of the final two leases in the rich cultural and natural Badger-Two Medicine Area will ensure it is protected for future generations.”

The BLM notified J.G. Kluthe Trust of Nebraska and W.A. Moncrief Jr. of Texas of the cancellations of the final two leases in the area. The lease cancellations occur after 30 years of administrative, legal and legislative actions and reflect the historical and cultural significance of the area to the Blackfeet Tribe and concerns regarding leasing issuance.

“The Badger-Two Medicine is a powerful cultural region,” said Harry Barnes, chairman of the Blackfeet National Tribal Business Council. “We’ve lived for 30 years under the threat that it might be industrialized, and we’re extremely grateful that this cloud is finally lifted. This area is like a church to our people, and retiring the last of the leases is a tremendous step toward permanent protection of the Badger-Two Medicine.”

The Badger-Two Medicine is a 130,000 acre area, bounded by Glacier National Park, the Bob Marshall Wilderness, and the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. This portion of the Rocky Mountain Front is considered sacred by the Blackfeet Tribe, and is part of a Traditional Cultural District. These characteristics caused Congress to legislatively withdraw the area from mineral development in 2006.

The Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service granted 47 oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine in 1982. Two years later, a drilling permit was approved on one of the leases, though drilling was stalled when a moratorium was placed on oil and gas drilling in the area. The leases being canceled today have not had any drilling in the area since issuance.

“We’ve sought protection of the Badger-Two Medicine for decades,” Barnes said. “And along the way, we’ve had help from important friends like Senator Jon Tester and Montana Governor Steve Bullock, and now the Department of the Interior. These are people who understand the importance of heritage and homeland.”

“Today marks the end of a decades-long journey for the Blackfeet Tribe and outdoor enthusiasts in northwest Montana,” Tester said. “The Badger-Two Medicine carries sacred significance and today’s decision guarantees the preservation of this pristine region for generations to come.”

The cancellation follows recommendations by the U.S. Forest Service, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and concerns expressed by the Blackfeet Tribe and interested members of the public. In 2016, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced the cancellation of 16 leases in the area. The leases were held by Solonex LLC and Devon Energy.