Protecting the Badger-Two Medicine Area

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On January 21, 2020, the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit heard oral argument in Solenex v. Bernhardt, a case about the protection of the Badger-Two Medicine Area, which is an area sacred to the Blackfeet Tribe and where the Tribe possesses treaty-reserved rights.

photo of field with mountains in the background. Badger-Two Medicine area. Photo credit: USDA Forest ServiceIn the early 1980’s, the United States issued an oil and gas lease to Solenex’s predecessor. Recognizing the Badger-Two Medicine Area’s cultural and spiritual importance as well as its unique environmental value, Congress later withdrew the area from oil and gas leasing, but allowed existing lease-holders, including Solenex, to keep their leases. However, Solenex was never able to secure a drilling permit, and eventually sued the United States over that issue.

The United States ultimately decided to cancel Solenex’s lease, reasoning in part that the Blackfeet Tribe’s religious, cultural, and treaty rights were not sufficiently considered in its decision to issue the lease. NARF represented the Blackfeet Tribe as an amicus party at the federal district court and again at the DC Circuit. A decision in the case is expected by this summer.