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Blackfeet Propose Bill To Further Protect Badger-Two Medicine

Solenex well site is the last remaining oil lease in Badger-Two-Medicine.
Solenex well site is the last remaining oil lease in Badger-Two-Medicine.

The Blackfeet Nation released draft legislation Thursday that would permanently protect the Badger-Two Medicine region bordering Glacier National Park from industrial resource development. Montana’s congressional delegation says they are reviewing the draft language of the proposed bill.

The release of the draft legislation follows a big win for the Blackfeet Tribe earlier this month. A ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. effectively canceled the last remaining oil and gas lease in the area, which is the sacred homeland of the Blackfeet people.

The proposed bill would now designate 130,000 acres of the Badger-Two Medicine within the Lewis and Clark National Forest as a “cultural heritage area.” The move would prevent future industrial development on the land. Congress has withdrawn the land from oil and gas leasing, and it was designated as a traditional cultural district under federal law.

Blackfeet Historic Preservation Office John Murray said those current protections don’t provide certainty that the area won’t be developed in the future. He explained the tribe previously wanted the Badger-Two Medicine to be designated as a national monument in order to get that kind of permanent protection.

“We think now that the monument doesn’t offer that permanent protection, because we’ve seen Bears Ears and Grand Staircase[-Escalante] monument get modified by different administrations,” Murray said.

The cultural heritage area designation would allow non-commercial timber harvest to continue, and would guarantee continued public access for hunting, fishing and hiking. The legislation would also set up a citizen advisory group - made up of both tribal and non-tribal members - to work with the U.S. Forest Service on drafting long-term management guidelines for the Badger-Two Medicine.

Conservation groups have long supported protecting the landscape, which serves as important habitat for grizzly bears and other wildlife moving between Glacier National Park to the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex.

Communications staff for each member of Montana’s congressional delegation said Democrat Sen. Jon Tester, and Republicans Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte, are willing to work with the tribe and are reviewing the proposal.

A Tester spokesperson said the senator supports permanently protecting the Badger-Two Medicine.

Daines’ spokesperson said he is willing to work with the tribe, and believes it’s important to “preserve the heritage of the area.”

A spokesperson for gubernatorial candidate Gianforte said the congressman is reviewing the proposed language, and will work with the tribe “to find the best solution for the Badger-Two Medicine.”

Copyright 2020 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.