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Drilling lease in the Badger-Two Medicine must be reinstated, judge rules

The Solenex well site is the last remaining oil lease in Badger-Two-Medicine.
Corin Cates-Carney
Montana Public Radio
The Solenex well site is the last remaining oil lease in Badger-Two-Medicine.

Advocates for keeping the Badger-Two Medicine free from oil and gas development say the legal fight over the land is far from over. This comes after a federal judge last week reinstated a decades-old lease on the land that’s sacred to the Blackfeet Nation.

Washington D.C. District Court Judge Richard Leon ordered the U.S. Interior Department to reinstate Solenex’s lease in the Lewis and Clark National Forest, which was first issued in the 1980s. The federal government canceled the lease six years ago saying it was issued illegally. Leon in his ruling said the government didn’t have the authority to cancel it.

The lease is on undeveloped land considered the cultural homeland of the Blackfeet Nation. Blackfeet Historical Preservation Officer John Murray is one of the intervenors in the case. He says, "The fight is far from over. The Badger-Two Medicine will remain the way it is today."

Map of Solenex Lease site in the Badger-Two Medicine near Glacier National Park
Courtesy Montana Wilderness Association
Courtesy Montana Wilderness Association
A map showing the Solenex site and the surrounding area.

The Glacier-Two Medicine Alliance also said in a statement it would fight the ruling, although the alliance and other groups have not yet said when they may appeal.

The Mountain States Legal Foundation, which is representing lease holder Solenex, says it will be ready to defend the ruling if appealed. The Interior Dept. declined to comment on the case.

The Solenex lease was one of over 40 oil and gas leases that were issued in the Badger-Two Medicine and is the last remaining lease on that land. Others were either voluntarily relinquished, canceled by the Interior Dept. or retired through private settlements.

Aaron graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism in 2015 after interning at Minnesota Public Radio. He landed his first reporting gig in Wrangell, Alaska where he enjoyed the remote Alaskan lifestyle and eventually moved back to the road system as the KBBI News Director in Homer, Alaska. He joined the MTPR team in 2019. Aaron now reports on all things in northwest Montana and statewide health care.
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