A coalition of Blackfeet cultural leaders, local community members, and conservationists today filed a request in federal court to oppose a Louisiana oil company’s legal campaign to drill in the Badger-Two Medicine area of Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front. The Badger-Two Medicine area is located at the northern end of the Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest, adjacent to the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, Glacier National Park, and the Bob Marshall Wilderness. The area is both ecologically significant because of its healthy populations of westslope cutthroat trout, grizzly bears, and elk and irreplaceable because of its cultural and spiritual significance to the Blackfeet people.
The diverse groups filed jointly for intervenor status in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., to defend against a lawsuit brought by Solenex LLC, a company seeking to develop a 6,200-acre federal oil and gas lease in the Badger-Two Medicine region. The U.S. Interior Department canceled the Solenex lease in March of 2016 based on a finding that the lease was illegally issued in 1982. Solenex is now asking a federal judge to overrule that decision, reinstate the lease, and allow an exploratory drilling project to go forward in the northern portion of the region.
“Those representing traditional Blackfeet culture did not have a seat at the table 30 years ago when the federal government leased our sacred lands for a dollar an acre,” said John Murray of the Pikuni Traditionalist Association. “This intervention is important to ensure that those representing traditional Blackfeet culture have a seat at the table now as the court considers the validity of the government’s effort to correct that 30-year-old mistake.”
On behalf of Blackfeet Headwaters Alliance, Jack Gladstone compared Solenex’s demand to drill in the Blackfeet’s sacred lands to, “General Custer’s 1874 Expedition for gold into the Black Hills of South Dakota. Both were considered culturally and ecologically essential for the well-being of tribal nations. Both were in stark violation of treaty law. Both stimulated tribal unity in opposition. Ultimately, the narrative did not end well for the aggressors in the Black Hills. Your move, ‘General.’”
Today’s legal filing was made by the environmental law firm Earthjustice on behalf of the Pikuni Traditionalist Association, Blackfeet Headwaters Alliance, Glacier-Two Medicine Alliance, Montana Wilderness Association, National Parks Conservation Association, and The Wilderness Society.
“It is important for people to understand that the fight to save the Badger-Two Medicine region is not over,” said Earthjustice attorney Timothy Preso, who is representing the groups. “We are asking for a seat at the table in Solenex’s legal case so that the judge hears from the Blackfeet people, community members, and conservationists who have been working to protect this irreplaceable region for decades.”
Kendall Flint, President of the Glacier-Two Medicine Alliance, a grass-roots conservation organization noted, "As a neighbor to the Badger-Two Medicine and to the Blackfeet, the Glacier-Two Medicine Alliance has opposed the industrial development in our backyard since the early 1980s. While we are grateful that the tides of agency decision-making have changed, we still insist that our interests in bringing justice to this landscape need to be represented in the courtroom."Read the legal document.
The Blackfeet Tribe, sportsmen, and conservationists have activities planned in and around the Badger-Two Medicine region throughout the spring and summer to celebrate the area’s cultural and ecological values and to raise public awareness about the threats to this unique and sacred land. Some of the highlights include:
- May 13: Release of yearling buffalo onto the Smith Ranch (Blackfeet Indian Reservation). This event will be attended by local schools, tribal and cultural leaders.
- June 24–25: Blackfeet Tribe will host the second annual Badger-Two Medicine Days on their Reservation and will feature hikes and horse packing into the Badger-Two Medicine; ceremonies; panel discussions and hands-on activities for youth.
- July 7–10: 65th Annual North American Indian Days
- September 16–18: Glacier-Two Medicine Alliance Fall Gathering at the Rising Wolf Ranch (East Glacier Park) celebrating the Badger-Two Medicine and working for its protection.
Timothy Preso, Earthjustice, (406) 586-9699
John Murray, Pikuni Traditionalist Association, (406) 370-8469
Jack Gladstone, Blackfeet Headwaters Alliance, (406) 250-1080
Kendall Flint, Glacier-Two Medicine Alliance, (406) 450-8790
Casey Perkins, Montana Wilderness Association, (406) 544-1093
Michael Jamison, National Parks Conservation Association, (406) 250-2540
Jennifer Ferenstein, The Wilderness Society, (406) 544-5987