Wilderness Society

Wilderness advocates and a Texas oil company agreed Tuesday to end an oil and gas lease on land considered sacred to the Blackfeet Nation. The settlement permanently removes all but one of the development leases in the Badger-Two Medicine area.

The Lionhead Recommended Wilderness near West Yellowstone, Montana, is part of the Custer Gallatin National Forest, May 31, 2019.
Rachel Cramer / Yellowstone Public Radio

The future of a forest stretching from West Yellowstone to South Dakota is reaching a pivotal point this week. The public comment period for the Custer Gallatin National Forest draft plan closes June 6, and the perspectives on forest management seem to be almost as diverse as the forest itself. One of the main areas of debate is recommended wilderness.

The fate of an important but little-known conservation fund is still uncertain after a vote in the Senate Thursday. The 50-year-old Land, Water and Conservation Fund is a federal program that uses royalties from oil and gas leases to protect forest, water and wildlife areas. Typically, that means buying up land and then setting it aside for conservation.

 


Chris Marchion takes a look at the Sapphire Wilderness Study Area in southwestern Montana.
Nate Hegyi / Mountain West News Bureau

Life’s been tough on Chris Marchion. There was the high school football injury and the knee replacement.

“Unfortunately I got a hip that’s wore out,” he says.

We’re standing alongside a gravel road near a cow pasture. Nowadays, this is about as close as Marchion can get to the Sapphire Wilderness Study Area. It’s a clump of rolling, grey mountains in the distance.