Blackfeet Tribe welcomes Zinke’s continued support for Badger-Two Medicine protection

Posted at 3:10 PM, Nov 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-15 18:30:43-05

MISSOULA – Leaders of the Blackfeet Nation are welcoming Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s statement of continued support for protection of the Badger-Two Medicine area.

Three years ago, the Obama administration canceled leases for exploratory gas and oil drilling in the Badger-Two Medicine, seemingly ending a 30-year old controversy over preserving the area, which is located southwest of Browning adjacent to the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

But Solenex LLC, which held those leases, appealed the case. And in September, a federal judge ordered the Interior Department to re-instate the company’s leases.

On Tuesday, Zinke said Interior will ask a higher court to review Judge Richard Leon’s ruling, saying drilling in the Badger-Two Medicine shouldn’t be allowed. Zinke said he has “tremendous respect” for the Blackfeet and says energy development there would be “inappropriate.”

On Wednesday, Blackfeet leaders said they plan to work directly with Zinke to “vigorously defend” the tribe’s heritage and cultural ties to the Badger-Two Medicine.

Reporting by Dennis Bragg for MTN News

Photo from website

(DECEMBER 5, 2017) Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will recommend the Badger-Two Medicine be given protection as a National Monument.

That announcement Tuesday comes even as Zinke is defending the Trump Administration’s move to dramatically trim the size of two monuments in Utah this week.

Zinke went on the defense Tuesday afternoon in a special press call, responding to President Trump’s signing of new executive orders sharply reducing the set aside for the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in Southern Utah.

Hundreds of protesters surrounded the President’s visit to Salt Lake Monday, with conservation groups and tribes immediately threatening legal action.

Zinke released his final report on the monument changes and defended President Trump’s actions, saying other presidents have followed a similar course, that there’s no move to transfer public lands to the states and that he had met with tribal leaders to discuss the changes.

At the same time, Zinke said he’ll recommend the Badger-Two Medicine be given protection from development as a national monument, setting aside the area on The Front immediately south of Glacier National Park for its cultural value to the Blackfeet Tribe.

The Montana Wilderness Association had a mixed reaction to Zinke’s latest statements, saying “while we appreciate Secretary Zinke recommending national monument protection for the Badger-Two Medicine, we find it reprehensible that he’s doing so at the same time he’s stripping protection from a place that is as sacred to five sovereign southwestern nations as the Badger-Two Medicine is to the Blackfeet.”