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Appeals Court upholds protection of sacred Blackfeet Badger-Two Medicine

Appeals Court upholds protection of sacred Blackfeet Badger-Two Medicine
Posted at 8:00 PM, Jun 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-17 22:00:57-04

On Tuesday, a federal appeals court upheld the cancellation of the last oil and gas lease in the Badger-Two Medicine area of the Northern Rocky Mountain Front.

The Badger-Two Medicine area is sacred to the Blackfeet tribe.

In 2016, the Secretary of the Interior under the Obama administration canceled the lease, citing the area's cultural significance and the interior's failure to conduct pre-lease analysis under the federal Environmental Protection Act.

Solenex, the lease holder, challenged the cancellation, saying the company was protected as the bona fide purchaser of the lease and that the Secretary of the Interior lacked the authority to cancel the lease.

The Blackfeet nation released a statement.

It says the ruling rights a fundamental wrong.

“The Blackfeet nation has always fought to protect our sacred cultural lands in the Badger-Two Medicine. This area, since time immemorial, has been Blackfeet traditional territory, a place of refuge for our people. For many decades we have opposed any plans to industrialize our cultural homeland. We want to acknowledge our many Blackfeet elders at the forefront of this struggle who are no longer with us, and did not live to see this victory that they helped to achieve. We are grateful for their leadership.

When the oil industry sued for the “right” to drill our territory, we knew that nothing less than our cultural survival was at stake. Today’s decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, brings a close this long and painful chapter in the history of our people. We thank the court for eliminating the last of the illegal oil and gas leases that were granted by the U.S. government in our sacred mountains. The court’s decision rights a fundamental wrong; these leases should never have been issued in the first place. Today’s ruling shows that these companies and their lawyers were not just on the wrong side of history but were also on the wrong side of the law when they waged their 40-year crusade to drill our ancestral land.

Now that the fate of this final lease has been settled, and Congress has prohibited any new leasing, we must guard against all future threats by protecting the Badger-Two Medicine once and for all. Our lands, our waters and our wildlife are integral to Blackfeet traditional practices, and are essential to our cultural survival. The Blackfeet nation will continue to work alongside our friends and neighbors to permanently protect the Badger-Two Medicine.”

A federal district court judge initially sided with Solenex.

However, the D.C. Appeals Court ruling overturns the lower court's decision.