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Texas Oilman Challenges BLM Over Cancellation of Montana Oil, Gas Leases

A billionaire Texas independent oilman from Fort Worth is suing the federal government over the cancellation of a long-term oil/natural gas lease in the Badger-Two Medicine region in Montana, where the Obama administration in its final days bowed to concerns of the Blackfeet Nation.

W.A. "Tex" Moncrief, head of Moncrief Oil Co., earlier this month filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the U.S. Department of Interior and its Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in the Montana-Dakotas office, and is petitioning Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, a former Montana congressman, to reverse the cancellation.

Last January, BLM canceled the final two oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine area in northwest Montana on lands the Blackfeet Nation considers sacred.

Moncrief's lawsuit is asking the federal court to reinstate the lease, which was cancelled in the waning days of the Obama administration and more than 35 years after its first issuance. Moncrief's legal filing cites a history of oil/gas drilling and related activities in the area going back to the early 1960s, and it contends that the Blackfeet Tribe has previously supported oil/gas development in the area.

While the tribe supposedly adopted a resolution in 1983 supporting a proposed joint venture with Denver-based Forest Oil Corp., Moncrief acknowledges that the tribe more recently has supported protecting the Badger-Two Medicine area from development.

Last November, a milestone settlement was reached with the biggest leaseholder, Devon Energy Corp., to cancel 15 leases. Another lease was canceled that was held by Solenex LLC.     Moncrief Oil and JG Kluthe Family Trust were the final two leaseholders to be canceled last January.

BLM officials said that there has been little or no development in the area since the leases were granted in the 1980s. The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation has determined that the area is one of the most culturally and religiously significant to the Blackfeet, recommending cancellation of the leases in 2015.

Within the Lewis and Clark National Forest, Badger-Two Medicine is composed of 130,000 acres bounded by Glacier National Park, the Bob Marshall Wilderness, and the Blackfeet reservation.

Carrying deep cultural and spiritual importance to the Blackfeet as their "Backbone of the World," the region is part of a designated traditional cultural district.

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