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Montana won't join fight over tribe's riverbed

Democrats on the Montana State Land Board outvoted Republicans in refusing to join a lawsuit challenging the Northern Cheyenne Tribe's ownership of half of a riverbed.

Republican Gov. Judy Martz and Republican Secretary of State Bob Brown wanted to assert ownership to the riverbed of the Tongue River. But the three Democrats, citing a lack of information about the effects on the tribe and private landowners, said it was too early to join the case.

The suit was filed by Fidelity Exploration & Production Co. in federal court. Fidelity says the state owns the riverbed because it plans to drill for oil and gas there.

The federal government, however, says the tribe owns half of the riverbed because the reservation cuts through the Tongue River. That would mean Fidelity's leases are invalid.

Get the Story:
State opts out of riverbed court fight for now (The Billings Gazette 10/19)