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Groups appeal court decision to reinstate oil lease in the Badger-Two Medicine

Solenex's proposed well site is on the land known as the Badger-Two Medicine and area sacred to the Blackfeet people and popular with recreationists and hunters.
Corin Cates-Carney
/
Montana Public Radio
Solenex's proposed well site is on the land known as the Badger-Two Medicine and area sacred to the Blackfeet people and popular with recreationists and hunters.

Blackfeet tribal traditionalists and conservation groups appealed a federal court decision on Wednesday that reinstated a controversial lease in the Badger-Two Medicine. This is the latest court filing in a decades-long battle over oil and gas development in the traditional homeland of the Blackfeet Nation.

The roughly 165,000 acre Badger-Two Medicine is a section of the Lewis and Clark National Forest along the Rocky Mountain Front. The landscape is sacred to the Blackfeet people and is popular with recreationists and hunters.

A decades-long legal battle over dozens of oil and gas leases within the Badger took a major step in 2016 when the federal government canceled any remaining leases, including one owned by Louisiana-based Solenex.

In September a federal court ruled that Solenex’s lease must be reinstated, saying the federal government lacked the authority to cancel the lease.

The Pikuni Traditionalist Association, which preserves Blackfeet culture, along with several conservation groups appealed that ruling to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. They maintain that like many other leases issued in the region in the 1980s, the Solenex lease lacked an environmental assessment and was therefore issued illegally.

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.