A decades-long effort led by concerned citizens and the Blackfeet Nation to protect the Badger-Two Medicine area from oil and gas development received a major boost on Oct. 1 when Moncrief Oil and The Wilderness Society announced that they had reached an out-of-court settlement to permanently retire a federal oil and gas lease in this area adjacent to Glacier National Park.
Peter Metcalf, the Executive Director of the Glacier-Two Medicine Alliance, a grass-roots conservation organization based in East Glacier Park, celebrated the news and thanked Hansjörg Wyss and the Wyss Foundation for their leadership in the matter.
“This is absolutely amazing news!” Metcalf said. “We cannot thank Mr. Wyss and the Wyss Foundation enough for making this lease retirement possible. For 35 years Glacier-Two Medicine Alliance has worked tirelessly alongside many, many partners to keep oil and gas out of the Badger-Two Medicine. Now, thanks to Wyss and The Wilderness Society, we are one step closer to realizing a more hopeful future for the Badger and for our communities than oil and gas could ever provide.”
The 130,000-acre Badger-Two Medicine provides vital wildlife habitat for many species, including grizzly bears, elk and wolverines, is a culturally significant landscape to the Blackfeet Nation, and provides exceptional hunting and backcountry recreation.
“The Badger-Two Medicine really is some of the best wildlife habitat anywhere in the state,” Kendall Flint, President of the Glacier-Two Medicine Alliance, observed. “It is just an absolutely glorious landscape that would be destroyed if oil and gas exploration were ever to occur. This announcement brings us closer to ensuring our children can experience the same cultural and ecological richness of this place as we do now.”
The area was originally leased for oil and gas exploration in the early 1980s over the objection of local citizens and without legally-sufficient environmental review or consultation with the Blackfeet Nation. The retired 7,640-acre lease had been owned by the Texas-based Moncrief Oil and Gas Master LLC since 1989. Its retirement continues a long trend of companies voluntarily relinquishing their leases in recognition of the area’s outstanding ecological and cultural heritage. The latest retirement leaves only one lease left in the Badger-Two Medicine, a 6,247 acre lease at Hall Creek owned by Louisiana-based Solenex LLC.
The federal government previously canceled Solenex’s lease as well as the now-retired lease of Moncrief Oil. Both companies challenged this decision in federal district court, and in 2018 the court ordered both leases reinstated. Glacier-Two Medicine Alliance, the Pikuni Traditionalists Association, Blackfeet Headwaters Alliance, Montana Wilderness Association, The Wilderness Society and the National Parks Conservation Association have appealed those decisions to the D.C. Circuit Court. The retirement announcement leaves only the litigation involving the Solenex lease ongoing. Unlike every other company, Solenex has so far shown no willingness to seek a fair, out-of-court settlement.
While the Glacier Two Medicine Alliance celebrates the lease retirement, Metcalf said the Alliance remains fully committed to eliminating the final lease and obtaining permanent protection for the area.
“The Badger absolutely needs to be protected permanently,” Metcalf said. “Permanent protection will not only benefit its amazing wildlife population and help connect places like the Bob and Glacier Park, but will help maintain our rural way of life and outdoor heritage. Protecting the Badger is something all Montanans should get be-hind and celebrate as the next chapter in our state’s outstanding conservation legacy.”