-Coalition to Protect the Rocky Mountain Front -
Protecting a National Environmental and Cultural Treasure
|Further Online Resources:
SAVE THE FRONT WEBSITE
BROWSE OUR "ROCKY MOUNTAIN FRONT" SECTION IN THE READING ROOM
BACKGROUND: BADGER-TWO MEDICINE LEASE AGREEMENT
To protect and defend the biodiversity, beauty, integrity and stability of the Montana Rocky Mountain Front as it has flourished through the ages.
From Canada to Mexico, the Montana Rocky Mountain Front is the last unmarred reach of a spectacular landscape, where the soaring ramparts of the mountains meet the Great Plains. We aspire to maintain it in all its wild glory, a vast haven of peace and solitude, rich in wildlife habitat, ecologically intact and undamaged forever.
|CPRMF's Guiding Principles:
The biological, historic, and cultural significance of this awe-inspiring landscape is unparalleled and shall be protected for the use and enjoyment of future generations - wildlife and human alike.
Only activities that maintain or enhance the long history of habitat conservation will be acceptable, thus ensuring continuous vitality of its wild character.
Concerns for aesthetics and landscape integrity will be respected and supported and no activity will be permitted that diminishes or degrades the quality of the ecosystem.
Conservation groups are most effective in a shared mission when working cooperatively. Coalition members will contribute skills, time, intelligence, and dollars, so as to ensure the protection of this national treasure.
Support from the broadest possible range of citizens will be sought to preserve The Front's wild character and to cherish its cultural significance in perpetuity.
The soaring ramparts of Montana's Rocky Mountain Front (RMF) run from the Canadian border to just north of Helena -- over 150 miles of grandeur where the rolling plains collide with sheer limestone reefs, towering thousands of feet above the grasslands. Abundant and diverse wildlife populations put this area in the top 1% of the best wildlife habitat in the United States. All large mammals (except free-roaming bison) present at the time of Lewis and Clark are still found here including wolves, grizzly bears, lynx, eagles, big horn sheep, and others. Presently, only the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex and Glacier National Park are legally protected from development. The vast majority of the RMF are public lands managed by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and the state of Montana. The Front country, despite a century of conservation history, is still largely open to energy development, particularly deep-well natural gas.
History of Badger-Two Medicine:
The northern 130,000 acres of the Front, adjacent to the Blackfeet Reservation, are known as the Badger-Two Medicine. The Blackfeet consider this a very sacred area and indeed it's the locus of their creation stories.
Despite serious questions as to the legality of the 1982 leasing process, there are 46 existing leases blanketing the Badger-Two Medicine. In 1998, recognizing the environmental, social and cultural significance of the area, Chevron (a primary leaseholder) supported legislation to allow federal trade-out of their leases. When the legislation failed, they relinquished their leases. British PetroFina likewise walked away from their leases. In 2001, almost 90,000 acres (70%) of the Badger-Two Medicine was declared eligible for listing as a Traditional Cultural District under the National Historic Preservation Act.
Pressure from a lease-holder wanting to drill caused the Forest Service and the Blackfeet Nation to revisit the issue. It has been determined that the existing boundaries of the Cultural District are likely too confined and more studies are under way. Buying out or swapping out of leases in this area may be the only way to save it.
In 2007, the U.S. Congress agreed and permanently put the entire Front off limits to leasing and mineral development. But, the existing leaseholders still maintain the right to drill. The Bush administration has urged lease-holders to consider selling or donating their leases so they may be permanently retired.
The Blackfeet Nation is playing a crucial role in advocating for protection of the Badger-Two Medicine from inappropriate energy development and motorized recreation run amok.
Beyond the Badger-Two Medicine, leasing on the RMF prior to 1997 provided opportunities for industry to perform exploratory drilling on BLM and Forest Service lands. Despite two decades of attempts (some successful) at questioning the dubious leasing process, some lessees pushed for drilling.
Threat Thwarted: A Canadian company, Startech, a subsidiary of Thunder Energy, procured a BLM lease in the Blackleaf area of the RMF. They were committed to exploratory drilling as soon as possible. BLM was, and is, under tremendous pressure to expedite all leasing and drilling actions. The proposed drill site is located in occupied grizzly bear habitat in an existing roadless area and is designated an Outstanding Natural Area. Initial exploration efforts would require 100 semi-loads of equipment be delivered to a high-elevation plateau which is currently unroaded.
Thanks to unrelenting public pressure by a strong non-partisan coalition of concerned people, elected officials and organizations like SOS, the Bush administration, in an unprecedented move, terminated the Environmental Study in mid-stream in October of 2004. The Front now enjoys permanent protection from further leasing.
Now the Coalition to Protect the Rocky Mountain Front seeks to promote and preseve traditional uses, foster excellent wildlife habitat and retain opportunities for future generations to enjoy this marvelous natural wonder.
Energy Lost?: Despite the intense focus on the RMF, the U.S. Geological Society estimates that the 'Montana Overthrust Belt,' (including the RMF and millions of additional acres) contains just 1.8 TCF of economically recoverable natural gas -- enough to meet the nation's demand for less than a month.
In 1997, after years of intensive scientific and public review of options, the Forest Service closed RMF lands under their jurisdiction to oil and gas leasing for the next 10-15 years. The decision, based on the ecosystem's unique qualities and importance to humans, was overwhelmingly supported by the public but appealed and litigated by industry. None of industry's claims were upheld as they carried the suit to the Supreme Court (which declined to hear the case).
Hunters, anglers, ranchers, outfitters, businesses and organizations from around the West are very interested in how these threats to the RMF were held at bay. Please contact us for more information or to schedule a presentation from us or one of our many dedicated Coalition members.:
Gene is a teacher and outfitter who has lived and worked near the Rocky Mountain Front for decades. He is the founder of Friends of the Rocky Mountain Front, a coalition of sport and recreation enthusiasts, business people, ranchers and conservationists. He is a tireless defender of the RMF, instrumental politically and socially in instigating and supporting effective conservation efforts for over 25 years.
Gloria is a former Forest Supervisor with the US Forest Service in Montana and Nevada. Her decision to ban oil and gas leasing on the Rocky Mountain Front responded to overwhelming public support and scientific evidence demanding protection of this remarkable landscape from inappropriate development. She now directs a non-profit organization dedicated to sustaining public lands and the plant, animal and human communities that depend on them.