Final lease retirements safeguard critical fish and wildlife habitat,
culminate decades-long effort by hunters, anglers, others
HELENA, Mont. – Montana hunters and anglers are celebrating following the secretary of Interior’s cancellation of the last remaining oil and gas leases in some of the finest big game habitat and native fisheries in North America: the Badger-Two Medicine area of the Lewis and Clark National Forest.
Following 35 years of legal and political battles over leases issued during the Reagan administration, today’s announcement cements conservation of the Badger-Two Med, a rugged 130,000 acres nestled between the Bob Marshall Wilderness and Glacier National Park.
Montana sportsmen treasure the Badger-Two Med for its 51 miles of clear, rushing streams that support native cutthroat trout and wild rainbow trout fisheries, as well as robust populations of elk, moose, grizzly and black bear, mule deer and bighorn sheep.
“The Badger-Two Medicine encompasses some of the best wildlife habitat in North America,” said Ryan Busse of Kalispell, national board chair of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “For uncounted generations, these mountains have supported fish and game and the human traditions that depend on them. Sportsmen and others have worked toward this goal for decades. We’re elated to know that this area will remain wild and free from industrial development for our kids and grandkids to experience.”
Sportsmen singled out Sen. Jon Tester, the Blackfeet Tribe and the Department of the Interior in recognizing the significance of the Badger-Two Medicine.
“The cold, clean headwaters of the Badger-Two Medicine are critical for native cutthroat trout surviving east of the Continental Divide,” said Dan Short, Flathead Valley angler and former chairman of Montana Trout Unlimited. “These sources of clean water will prove more valuable over time than any amount of oil or gas that might have been extracted there.”
In the 1980s, Interior Secretary James Watt leased virtually the entire Badger-Two Medicine for development, a move that the Blackfeet Tribe and others long have opposed as a violation of bedrock environmental laws and tribal treaty rights. Since 2006, thousands of acres of leases have been voluntarily retired by the companies or cancelled by the agency. Over the years, leaseholders have been offered reimbursements including tax incentives, cash and alternative areas to explore as sides tried to settle the dispute. Today, the last two remaining leases were relinquished.
Sportsmen’s groups from across Montana have been on the record urging the Interior Department to conserve the Badger Two-Medicine. These groups include Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Montana Trout Unlimited, Montana Wildlife Federation, Helena Hunters & Anglers, Hellgate Hunters and Anglers, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the Wild Sheep Foundation.