The Northern Cheyenne tribe, along with a coalition of conservation groups, sued the Trump administration Wednesday for lifting a moratorium on coal leases on public lands.
The southeastern Montana tribe filed the lawsuit in response to Interior Secretary Zinke’s decision to lift the moratorium on coal leasing.
“Digging into Mother Earth, taking from Mother Earth for that purpose doesn’t align with our value system, doesn’t fit with our worldview. We’re still very connective to the land, we’re very traditional people. We have strong ceremonies that remind of us that connection,” said Jace Killsback, Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council Chairman and President.
Zinke, a former Montana State congressman, said yesterday that "a war on coal is a war on the Crow," neighbors to the west of the Northern Cheyenne.
President Killsback says that they’re not going to oppose the Crow tribe in their pursuit to develop coal, the tribe’s predominant money-making industry.
Instead, “We’re asking that if there is development around our reservation with the Crow do border, there is some consideration, some respect to look at the impacts it would have on our community- environmentally, economically, socially, and culturally," said Killsback.
The groups who filed suit in federal district court in Great Falls, Montana include Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians, and Earthjustice. They are asking for the court to set aside Interior Secretary Zinke’s decision and block coal leasing until an environmental review is completed.
In a press conference call to reporters Wednesday, Zinke said that type of environmental review process is too costly and takes too long.
The Crow have not yet responded to Zinke's decision, and a letter, sent by the Northern Cheyenne tribe earlier this month to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, did not receive a response.