Federal Judge Returns Cancelled Drilling Lease at Badger Medicine 2

A federal judge on Friday They reworked the last remaining excavation contract on the ground in the Badger to Medicine area near the Black Feet Reserve, to renew the threat of industrialization on sacred lands to the tribe even as its cultural leaders vow to continue their fight.

“It’s just the same thing from people who refuse to consult with the Blackfeet Nation about the manufacture of another cultural refuge,” John Murray, Blackfeet’s Tribal Historical Preservation Officer, said in a prepared statement. “We have lived under this kind of reckless threat to our sacred lands for decades, and we will never give in to the roads and diggers of Badger-Two medicine.”

The long-disputed power lease was in the Badger-Two Medicine area that surrounds Glacier National Park Canceled in 2016 Under then US Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, a decision she supported Federal Court of Appeals in the year 2020.

Other energy companies have voluntarily abandoned their leases on the 130,000-acre Badger-Two Medicine, acknowledging that leases were issued decades ago without sufficient input from tribal members who raised cultural concerns. However, the Louisiana-based oil and gas company with its last remaining lease, Solenex LLC, has continued its legal efforts to preserve drilling rights, arguing in a lawsuit against the Department of the Interior that the federal agency overstepped its authority and the lease should have been reinstated.

In his September 9 opinion on returning the Solenex lease, U.S. District Judge Richard Lyons of Washington, D.C., impeded the federal agencies that first approved the lease in 1982, describing an “endless series of administrative reviews.” [that] It has been forbidden any activity for nearly forty years.”

“How Kafka!” Lyon cried out in his judgment, and concluded that the Solenex lease had been properly issued and therefore not subject to revocation.

The judge rejected the federal government’s rationale for rescinding the Solenex lease and disagreed with claims that excavation and road construction in Badger-Two Medicine would irreversibly harm the cultural and environmental values ​​of the area, a Designated Traditional Cultural District (TCD)

The Solenex lease of 6,200 acres was one of many leases issued by the federal government in the early 1980s. Over the course of several decades, the majority of renters have voluntarily abandoned their lease contracts in appreciation of the region’s distinct natural and cultural values. In some cases, tenants have sold their rights to third parties and then returned them to the federal government for permanent retirement. Finally, the Home Office canceled the small number of remaining leases and issued orders to refund the purchase price to the tenant and expenses associated with the lease.

Solenex remained the only company still claiming to develop the area, and in 2013 it filed a lawsuit to force the government to allow road construction and exploratory drilling.

In his opinion on September 9, Leon wrote: “In 2016, after many lawsuits, the government ordered a final decision on the Solenex application.” “Amazingly, the government responded by canceling the basic lease – the validity of which had not been disputed before this litigation arose – and denying the drilling permit. Now, six years and a trip to our circuit court later, I am finally in a position to address the merits of this decision.” .

“The time has come to put an end to the endless and unbearable match of bureaucratic chess,” Lyon wrote. “The Court found that the Secretary lacked the authority to rescind the lease, and that the Secretary acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner in denying a previously approved application for a permit to dig.”

According to Murray, who also leads the Traditional Pikuni Association, which was among a coalition of groups that stepped in to defend the lawsuit brought by Solenex, the Blackfeet Nation and its rich cultural heritage should not be punished for a mistake the federal government has made over decades. Ago.

“If our experience teaches us anything, it is that soon, someone will bring another fight to our doorstep. Someone always has another plan that would undermine our cultural heritage,” Murray said. Pretty much a Badger-Two drug – but it’s in a fragile state. She can’t stand the extra pressure. It can’t withstand another battle.”

Peter Metcalfe, executive director of the Glacier-Two Medicine Alliance, noted that the struggle over the fate of the Solenex lease has included disappointments and triumphs.

“We had to overcome many setbacks during this nearly 40-year effort to prevent irresponsible energy development from these ecologically and culturally vital lands,” Metcalf said. But despite enormous hurdles, we managed to block any development and retire another 46 leases. The narrative is clearly moving towards protecting the Badger-Two drug and I am confident that we will eventually cancel the final lease as well.”

Tyson Running Wolf, a Montana legislator, former member of the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council, hunters and leader among Blackfeet traditionalists, said Solinex executives and attorneys simply do not understand the importance of Badger Two to Blackfeet culture and their ways of life.

“This is a place where the original creativity is still alive,” said Running Wolf. “There are very few of those places left on this earth. The stakes here go well beyond two years of profit for some oil companies. This is our legacy and our legacy we are talking about. This is about the survival of our culture as Black Feet people.”

Running and Wolf said the Badger-Two drug will not be manufactured.

He said, “This is more than land.” “It is a complete way of life, a path to a strong and healthy future. Blackfeet will have a say in that future, no matter what today’s judgment. We are here from time immemorial, and we are not going anywhere.”

The Pikuni Traditionalist and Glacier-Two Medicine Alliance joined in defending the lawsuit by the Blackfeet Headwaters Alliance, Wild Montana (formerly the Montana Wilderness Association), the National Parks Conservation Association and The Wilderness Society.

The coalition, which is represented by Earthjustice, said in a press release that it is considering all legal options.

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