The Trump administration has voluntarily dropped its appeal of a federal district court's decision to reinstate two oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine region of the Lewis and Clark National Forest in northwestern Montana.
The Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) filed an unopposed motion for voluntary dismissal Wednesday in U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The court is expected to grant the request.
At issue are oil and gas leases the BLM awarded in 1982, which were suspended during three rounds of administrative appeals and a subsequent lawsuit by environmental groups and the Blackfeet Nation. Court records show that after 1997, Congress withdrew the area from new oil and gas leasing and all but two of the leases were relinquished.
BLM cancelled the final two leases during the waning days of the Obama administration. W.A. "Tex" Moncrief, a billionaire Texas oilman and owner of one of the leases, sued the agency in April 2017. A federal district court in Montana ruled in favor of Moncrief and Solenex LLC, the holder of the other lease, last September. BLM had appealed those rulings.
Attorneys for the environmental groups and Blackfeet Nation reportedly plan to appeal and file briefs in the D.C. appellate court in the case, Moncrief v. DOI et al, No. 1805340. Court records show the government has not yet moved to dismiss the other lawsuit, Solenex LLC v. David Bernhardt et al, No. 18-5345.
Badger-Two Medicine is comprised of 130,000 acres within the national park. The area is bounded by Glacier National Park, the Bob Marshall Wilderness and the Blackfeet reservation.