A leaked memo from Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinkeís office seems to indicate support for national monument status for the Badger-Two Medicine region south of Glacier National Park near Marias Pass.
The region, primarily on the Lewis and Clark National Forest, has rolling hills, a large elk herd and is home to grizzly bears and other endangered species. It has also been a battleground in recent years for energy development.
Adding a national monument designation for the 130,000 acre area would certainly be a turn of events.
The Missoulian first reported about the monument suggestion. It comes on the next-to-last page of the 19-page leaked draft document, which actually advises that 10 monuments nationwide be shrunk in size, including Bearís Ear in Utah, which is also considered sacred by tribes in that state.
Ted Brewer, spokesman for the Montana Wilderness Association said the group appreciated that Zinke supported protections for the Badger-Two Medicine, ďBut itís not acceptable while youíre stripping protections for Bearís Ear,Ē he said.
He also noted the Trump administration actionís was undermining the Antiquities Act, which allows presidents to protect important sites in the U.S.
If the monuments are shrunk, it leaves other monuments at the whim of future administrations, he noted.
The Blackfeet Tribe consider the Badger-Two Medicine sacred, but oil company Solonex and others are suing the federal government claiming leases they held in the region were illegally canceled by the federal government.
In April, Texas oilman W.A. Moncrief filed a federal lawsuit against the Department of the Interior, challenging the cancellation of his oil and gas lease.
The lease was canceled by former Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell in the waning days of the Obama administration.
Moncrief was paid back $27,800 for the lease, which covered 7,640 acres of land in the region.
Solonex has been fighting the Department of Interior over its leases for more than 30 years now.
The companies claim there might be natural gas reserves under the hills and a natural gas pipeline that runs through the region would allow them an easy way to get the gas to market.
Messages left for Blackfeet Tribal Chairman Harry Barnes were not returned.