Photo Courtesy of Blackfeet Nation
Tribe praises decision as “critical step forward” for permanent protection of the site
Published November 24, 2015
BROWNING, MONTANA—The Department of the Interior today announced it would pursue cancellation of the illegal Solenex oil lease in the Badger-Two Medicine, 165,000 acres along Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front that are the site of Blackfeet creation stories and home to many of the tribe’s traditional foods and medicines.
“Badger-Two Medicine is too sacred to develop,” said Harry Barnes, chairman of the Blackfeet Nation Tribal Council. “We’re grateful this administration has taken a critical step toward permanent protection of this site that is like a church—a divine sanctuary—to our people.”
Thirty years ago, the Badger-Two Medicine was leased illegally without tribal consultation and without assessing environmental impacts. Earlier this year, the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack lent their support for cancellation of the Solenex lease, in addition to other remaining leases in the area, due to impacts to the Blackfeet tribe’s cultural and religious practices.
“We’ve opposed the development of this area for decades, and now other federal agencies are confirming that the impacts of drilling can’t be mitigated,” said Barnes. “With the Department of Interior’s decision today, the government has formally acknowledged that drilling in the Badger-Two Medicine would cause devastation beyond repair.”
While the decision is significant, Blackfeet leaders note that the fight to permanently protect this sacred site is likely to continue.
“The government has absolutely made the right decision and begun to right a wrong that was done to our people decades ago,” said Barnes. “But we know that corporate interests are unlikely to back down from the fight and neither are we. We won’t end our battle until Badger-Two Medicine is permanently protected from oil and gas development.”
Earlier this year, the Blackfeet Nation launched a national campaign calling for the cancellation of oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine. In April, Earl Old Person, chief of the Blackfeet Nation, wrote President Barack Obama asking him to end the 30-year fight by cancelling the leases.
“Badger-Two Medicine is our land, it is everything to us,” said Old Person. “Many years ago, our ancestors turned down payment for this area that is still the best traditional area that we have to hunt and gather medicine.”