As Bernhardt Visits Montana, Tester Escalates Efforts to Protect Badger-Two Medicine with Senate Resolution
Resolution calls on Interior Secretary Bernhardt to honor commitment to Blackfeet Tribe
(U.S. Senate) - Escalating his efforts to protect the sacred Badger Two-Medicine area, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today introduced a resolution on the floor of the U.S. Senate calling on Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and the Trump Administration to reverse course and honor their commitment to the Blackfeet Tribe.
"Secretary Bernhardt and this Administration have broken their own commitment to the Blackfeet Tribe," Tester said. "So today we're holding them to account on what we in Montana already know- this sacred, wild, beautiful place must be protected for future generations. That's a promise the previous Interior Secretary made to the Tribe, and it's one the current Secretary must honor."
In April, the Interior Department withdrew its appeal in a U.S. District Court case regarding one of the last remaining oil leases in the Badger-Two Medicine-paving the way for private drilling in the area. Tester called on Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, whose confirmation he opposed, to uphold the Department's commitment to remove all active leases in the area.
"The Badger-Two Medicine is sacred land for the Blackfeet Tribe, and it's a cornerstone of our history and our culture," said John Murray, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Blackfeet Tribe. "This is an irreplaceable landscape, and we are strongly disappointed to see the Department of the Interior go back on its commitment to safeguard this land. We will keep fighting to make sure the Badger-Two Medicine stays wild, beautiful, and protected for our people, our children, and our grandchildren."
"The Badger-Two Medicine is an iconic wild landscape," said Ryan Busse, chair of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers' North American Board of Directors. "The northern hinge pin of the Rocky Mountain Front, the Badger-Two Med has been a spiritual mecca for uncounted human generations. Its vastness holds some of the finest remaining wildlife habitat in our country. This timeless place has inspired the creation myths of ancient tribes - and continues to inspire new generations. I should know. Eleven years ago, my wife and I named our son Badge in honor of its magic. A place like this should never see industrial development or be a pawn in petty political chicanery."
"Montanans and the Blackfeet Nation continue to pay the price for the government's illegal leasing of the Badger-Two Medicine over 30 years ago," said Jennifer Ferenstein, Montana Senior Representative for the Wilderness Society. "Now is the time for the Department of the Interior to honor its pledge to defend the Badger-Two Medicine and to allow the intervenors - Blackfeet, hunters, anglers, and conservationists - to continue our pursuit of a fair decision in the courts. Thank you Sen. Tester for taking a stand on behalf of all of us who value the wildlife, water, and the cultural survival of the Blackfeet."
"We thank Senator Tester for trying to right a terrible wrong that the government perpetrated against the Blackfeet Nation back in the 1980s," said John Todd, deputy director at Montana Wilderness Association. "We're now urging Secretary Bernhardt to respect the fact that the Blackfeet have been using the Badger-Two Medicine for thousands of years and that Montanans of all stripes do not want this area industrialized."
"By robbing the Blackfeet people of their right to defend themselves in court and refusing to uphold the cancellation of illegal oil and gas leases, the Department of Interior is perpetuating the same mistakes it made 30 years ago," said Michael Jamison, Senior Glacier Program Manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. "We simply can't stand by and allow such a history of injustice to repeat itself. We're all fortunate for Senator Tester's leadership as a committed champion of Blackfeet heritage, and a real friend to the people and places that make Montana so special."
The Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service granted 47 oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine in 1982. Two years later, a drilling permit was approved for one of the leases, but drilling was stalled when a moratorium was placed on oil and gas drilling in the area. The Interior Department cancelled the controversial Solonex oil and gas lease in 2016, and Devon Energy voluntarily relinquished 15 oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine later that year-leaving just two active leases remaining. The Department then canceled those last two leases-to J.G. Kluthe Trust of Nebraska and W.A. Moncrief Jr. of Texas-in January of 2017.
Both Moncrief and Solonex subsequently sued the Department and got their lease cancellations overturned. Up until last month, Interior had planned to appeal both of these rulings, but just a few weeks after David Bernhardt replaced Ryan Zinke as Secretary of the Interior, the agency decided to withdraw its appeal in the Moncrief case. Last month the Department went even further by asking the court to dismiss the Moncrief case entirely, before reissuing the Moncrief lease, again opening the door to development in the Badger-Two.
Tester has long supported protecting the Badger-Two Medicine, and has repeatedly called on the Department of the Interior to cancel the remaining leases in the area, citing the area's importance to the Blackfeet Tribe and Montana's sportsmen and women.
The Badger-Two Medicine is located at the intersection of the Blackfeet Reservation, Glacier National Park, and the Bob Marshall Wilderness.