Environment | Law

Judge to hear arguments in Blackfeet Nation sacred site dispute






Tribal leaders discuss the importance of the Badger-Two Medicine Area. From left to right: Historic Preservation Officer John Murray, Chief Earl Old Person and Secretary Tyson Running Wolf. Photo from Blackfeet Nation

A federal judge will hear arguments tomorrow in a case that affects energy development on sacred Blackfeet Nation land in Montana.

The tribe opposes oil and gas drilling in the 165,000-acre area Badger-Two Medicine Area near the reservation. Development was approved during the Reagan administration without prior consultation.

Solenex LLC holds an exploration lease and has been seeking to drill on the land since the 1980s. The company claims the Interior Department has unreasonably delayed the work due to concerns raised by the tribe.


Badger Creek in the Badger-Two Medicine Area in Montana. Photo from Blackfeet Nation

The tribe and Solonex met in April to discuss the matter. The tribe offered land on the reservation in exchange for the lease in Badger-Two Medicine but the company did not agree, according to news reports.

The area falls within the Lewis and Clark National Forest and was part of an agreement signed in 1896. Tribal leaders say they only meant to lease the land to the government for 99 years and are seeking the return of the land.

The land plays an important role in tribal history and culture. The area is used for hunting and gathering of traditional food and medicine.

The case is Solonex LLC v. Jewell. Judge Richard J. Leon will hear arguments tomorrow at 2:30pm in Courtroom 18 at the federal court in Washington, D.C.

Get the Story:
After Three Decades of Delay, Longwell Gets Day in Court (The Fairfield Sun Times 6/2)
Solenex requests accelerated hearing in Badger-Two Medicine drilling case (The Ravalli Republic 5/5)
Owner of energy lease near Glacier urges judge to act (AP 5/5)

An Opinion:
William Perry Pendley: ‘Sacred Lands,’ Or The Almighty Dollar? (The Daily Caller 6/9)

Related Stories:
Blackfeet Nation launches campaign to ban drilling at sacred site (04/23)
Blackfeet Nation opposes energy development on sacred lands (03/30)