WASHINGTON — The Departments of the Interior and Agriculture today announced that, as part of a settlement with the sole remaining lessee, the final federal oil and gas lease in the Badger-Two Medicine area will be relinquished. This significant milestone, decades in the making, will help ensure that the natural and cultural resources on the ancestral homelands of the Blackfeet Nation are protected.
“The Badger-Two Medicine area continues to have cultural and religious significance to the Blackfeet Nation, which has stewarded that land since time immemorial. Oil and gas development would have had irreparable impacts on these sacred homelands. Today’s action closes the chapter on development threats to this special place and recognizes the importance of protecting these lands for future generations,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “The Biden-Harris administration is committed to working with Tribes to protect Indigenous homelands and ensure the preservation of their natural and cultural resources.”
“The Badger-Two Medicine area is a place of profound cultural and spiritual importance to the people of the Blackfeet Nation,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Today’s action will protect this land for this generation and generations to come, and serves as a marker of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to protecting treasured pieces of our national heritage like the Badger-Two Medicine area.”
The Badger-Two Medicine area encompasses approximately 130,000 pristine acres in Lewis and Clark National Forest, adjacent to Glacier National Park, two wilderness areas, and the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Badger-Two Medicine was once a part of the Reservation. Although it was ceded in 1896, the Badger-Two Medicine area continues to have cultural and religious significance to the Blackfeet Nation, which has consistently raised concerns about development in the area.
The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management issued 47 federal oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine area in 1982, but an environmental impact statement was never prepared prior to the issuance of an application for permit to drill. This led to several years of litigation – and the cancellation of the lease in 2016 by then-Secretary Sally Jewell, followed by further litigation – during which time the lease remained suspended.
Congress permanently withdrew the entire area from oil and gas leasing, subject to valid existing rights, in 2006, providing tax incentives for existing lessees who voluntarily relinquished their leases. One remaining lessee did not voluntarily relinquish its lease until today’s settlement agreement.
In 2002, a portion of the Badger-Two Medicine area was established as a Traditional Cultural District, and in 2014, based on additional documentation provided by the Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Forest Service, that area was expanded to encompass approximately 165,000 acres, including the lands covered by the leases.