The head of the U.S. Forest Service now says he believes that all oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine area of the Lewis and Clark National Forest should be cancelled.
On Friday Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack sent a letter to the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, urging her to cancel the 18 remaining leases on the Forest Service land that’s sacred to the Blackfeet people.
His recommendation was heavily influenced by findings of the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, which visited the Blackfeet Nation this summer. The council said drilling in the Badger-Two Medicine could damage the Tribe’s ability to practice their religious and cultural traditions.
Tim Preso of Earthjustice is encouraged by the Secretary of Agriculture's recommendation.
"But at the end of the day only one entity gets to make the decision. And that’s the Interior Department. It created this situation when it issued the leases despite the protests of so many people back in the 1980s. And it issued a drilling permit over the protest of so many people in the 1990s. Now that decision is coming home to roost.”
One of the companies that owns oil and gas leases in the Badger Two Medicine is suing to get a yes or no on drilling, some three decades after it was awarded the leases. A federal judge has ordered the Interior Department to decide by November 23.