Company gets $2.6 million to relinquish oil lease on Montana land that’s sacred to Native Americans


BILLINGS, Mont.– A Louisiana business will get $2.6 million to give up the last staying oil and gas lease on U.S. forest land near Montana’s Glacier National Park that’s spiritual to Native Americans, federal government authorities and lawyers associated with the offer stated Friday.

The offer would solve a decades-long conflict over the 10- square-mile (25- square-kilometer) oil and gas lease in the mountainous Badger-Two Medicine location of northwestern Montana.

The lease was provided in 1982 however has actually not been established. It’s on the website of the production story for the Blackfoot people of southern Canada and Montana’s Blackfeet Nation. Tribal members bitterly opposed drilling.

In exchange for quiting the lease, Solenex LLC will get $2.6 million, stated David McDonald with the Mountain States Legal Foundation, which represented the business. The federal government will pay $2 million and the Wyss Foundation, a charitable group established by Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss, will offer the staying $625,000, according to McDonald and Wyss representative Marnee Banks.

The Solenex lease had actually been cancelled in 2016 under then-U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell at the demand of the Blackfoot people and preservation groups.

But U.S. District Judge Richard Leon bought the lease renewed in 2015. Leon stated Jewell did not have the authority to withdraw the lease numerous years after it was offered and after a number of previous research studies had actually analyzed the ecological and other effects of drilling in the location.

Tribal cultural leaders appealed that choice. The appeal is anticipated to be dismissed when the arrangement for Solenex to give up the lease is enacted, which might take a number of months, according to court files submitted Friday.

Blackfeet Tribal Historic Preservation Officer John Murray defined the legal fight over the lease as a “lengthy clash of cultures” and stated he was eliminated it was over.

” The Badger Two Medicine is substantial to the Blackfeet way of living from the past, now and in the future,” Murray stated. “I enjoy to see this oil and gas lease disappear in the Badger Two Medicine. We are back to where we were 40 years back.”

Solenex creator Sidney Longwell, who passed away in 2020, purchased the lease however never ever drilled on the website. Rather, Longwell challenged significant administrative hold-ups within the U.S. departments of Interior and Agriculture that triggered the business to take legal action against in 2013.

McDonald stated Leon’s September 2022 judgment revealed that authorities can not unilaterally cancel oil and gas leases missing a breach of agreement by the lease holder.

” We see this as an incredibly beneficial result,” he stated. “The settlement leaves in location Judge Leon’s exceptional district court viewpoint, preserving the legal concepts we defended in court precedent, and attends to substantial settlement for our customers.”

The 1982 lease was among 47 granted in the Badger Two-Medicine that year by the Department of Interior. Congress withdrew the location from more leasing in 2006 and supplied tax breaks to rent holders that triggered most to willingly quit their drilling rights.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland stated Friday’s statement “closes the chapter on advancement hazards to this unique location and acknowledges the value of securing these lands for future generations.”

The Department of Agriculture in 2014 designated the Badger Two-Medicine as a Traditional Cultural District.

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