Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, second from right, in Salt Lake City, Utah, on December 4, 2017. Photo: Tami A. Heilemann / U.S. Department of the Interior
Environment | National | Politics

Blackfeet Nation seeks co-management of area under consideration as monument

President Donald Trump is being urged to consider a national monument on ancestral Blackfeet Nation land.

But the tribe opposes a monument designation at Badger-Two Medicine unless it can co-manage the land, Montana Public Radio reports. The area consists of about 130,000 acres adjacent to the reservation and it has played an important role in Blackfeet culture and history.

“A lot of people retreated into the Badger Two-Medicine area and so they went up there for ceremonies, they went up there on vision quests and to teach their children as much as they could, the old ways, the ancient ways,” Chairman Harry Barnes told Montana Public Radio.

Secretary Ryan Zinke of the Department of the Interior supports tribal co-management of the land, which falls within Lewis and Clark National Forest. But the Trump administration believes only Congress can authorize such a role.

"This area of the Rocky Mountain Front was designated a Traditional Cultural District in May 2014, and is considered sacred by the Blackfeet Nation," Zinke wrote in his final monuments report for the president. "I recommend this area be considered for designation as a national monument and as a candidate for co-management with the Blackfeet tribe."

Indianz.Com on SoundCloud: Secretary Ryan Zinke and Bears Ears National Monument

A monument designation at Badger Two-Medicine would likely bar energy development. Acting on the tribe's concerns, the Obama administration canceled all the outstanding leases in the area but one energy firm continues to challenge the decision in federal court.

Solonex LLC is being represented by Mountain States Legal Foundation, a conservative legal group whose leader has called on the new administration to authorize drilling in Badger Two-Medicine. Zinke, during a media call on Tuesday, said he was open to a "deal" on the issue.

“I want to make sure there’s no takings," Zinke said, The Missoulian reported, referring to the property right claimed by Solonex. "There’s a deal to be made on how to retire those leases."

The tribe has always maintained ownership of Badger Two-Medicine even though it's considered federal land. The tribe cites an 1885 treaty and an 1895 agreement as protecting its rights to use the land for ceremonies, hunting, fishing and other activities.

Zinke's final monuments report confirms that he recommended a reduction in the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah even though tribes opposed such a move.

Trump went much further and effectively dismantled the monument, cutting its acreage by 85 percent and designating two smaller units, known as Shash Jáa and Indian Creek, instead. Tribal co-management would be restricted to Shash Jáa and would require an act of Congress, according to the new administration.

Read More on the Story:
No Decision By Trump On Proposed New Montana Monument (Montana Public Radio December 4, 2017)
Zinke recommends new monument for Badger-Two Medicine to president (The Great Falls Tribune December 5, 2017)
Zinke Backs Monument Reductions, Supports Protection for Badger-Two Medicine (The Flathead Beacon December 5, 2017)
Zinke defends monument reductions, supports Badger-Two Medicine (The Missoulian December 5, 2017)

Some Analysis:
Eugene Scott: Trump argued for keeping Confederate monuments. Then he scaled back those of Native Americans. (The Washington Post December 6, 2017)

Related Stories:
President Trump urged to declare sacred Blackfeet Nation lands as monument (September 27, 2017)
Secretary Zinke embraces view that some areas are 'too precious' for development (August 29, 2017)
Interior Department cancels final leases on sacred Blackfeet Nation land (January 10, 2017)
Republican lawmaker with a better tribal record tapped for Interior Secretary (December 15, 2016)
Michael Dax: Blackfeet Nation scores victory in sacred land fight (December 12, 2016)
Editorial: Keep oil and gas drillers away from sacred Blackfeet Nation lands (November 22, 2016)
Sacred land protection efforts face questions with Donald Trump (November 18, 2016)
Blackfeet Nation scores victories on sacred sites and water rights (November 17, 2016)