Wilderness advocates and a Texas oil company agreed Tuesday to end an oil and gas lease on land considered sacred to the Blackfeet Nation. The settlement permanently removes all but one of the development leases in the Badger-Two Medicine area.
After the U.S. Interior Department canceled all remaining oil and gas leases in the area in 2017, Moncrief Oil went to court along with another leaseholder to argue for their right to drill. They both won, but the cases were quickly appealed to the D.C. Appellate Court.
Now, Moncrief has reached an agreement with the Wilderness Society, an intervenor in the case, to retire its lease. That’s the only detail of the settlement being released publicly.
Peter Aengst is the northern rockies regional director for the Wilderness Society.
“But over the last couple of months, the Wilderness Society has been in negotiations with Moncrief Oil about settling this out of court ... and that lease has been retired basically effective today,” Aengst said.
In a press release, Moncrief said it could have developed the area responsibly, but, “The sensitivity to this special area outweighs development.”
The Badger-Two Medicine area of the Lewis and Clark National Forest borders the Blackfeet Reservation and Glacier National Park and is within ancestral home of the Blackfeet Nation. The tribe has been fighting to stop drilling there for decades.
John Murray is the Blackfeet Nation’s historic preservation officer.
“This is one hell of a big day. It’s kind of hard to take everything over the last 30 some years ... and then try to narrow it down to a few sentences,” Murray said.
But one oil and gas lease remains in the Badger-Two Medicine. It’s held by a Louisiana company called Solenex.
The fight over that lease is still before the D.C. Court of Appeals. There have been calls for Acting Bureau of Land Management Director William Perry Pendley, who represented Solenex in the matter, to recuse himself from the issue, but so far, he has not done so.