Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Forest Service Tells Interior To Cancel Leases On Sacred Blackfoot Land

Acting under the National Historic Preservation Act, last week Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack recommended in a letter (full text) to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell that 18 oil and gas leases on sacred Blackfoot Indian land in Montana be cancelled.  As reported by AP, drilling suspensions on the land have been in effect since the 1980's.  The leases are on land in the Badger-Two Medicine Traditional Cultural District located on the Lewis and Clark National Forest. The U.S. Forest Service is part of the Department of Agriculture.  One of the lease holders has sued challenging as unreasonable the 29-year delay in reviewing the lease suspension.  Last month in Solenex, LLC v. Jewell, (D DC, Oct. 8, 2015), the D.C. federal district court ordered the government to notify the court by November 23 whether it plans to cancel or lift the suspension of the lease.

UPDATE: On Nov. 28, AP reported that the Interior Department accepted the recommendation and plans to cancel a 6,200 acre lease to Solenex.  Counsel for Solenex says if the lease is cancelled, the company is entitled to compensation.