WASHINGTON – Following an industry decision to relinquish oil and gas leases on approximately 29,000 acres of federal public lands on Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership today praised the action as a positive move toward conserving important fish and wildlife habitat and sustaining hunting and fishing opportunities for American citizens.
In announcing the news earlier this afternoon, Montana Sen. Max Baucus referred to the lands encompassed by the leases as “a crown jewel of the West and a sportsmen’s paradise.” Adjacent to Glacier National Park, the leases are located in the Badger-Two Medicine area of Lewis and Clark National Forest and provide crucial habitat for a range of species important to hunters and anglers, including bighorn sheep and cutthroat trout.
Sale of federal leases on the Front has been prohibited since 2006 by a congressional ban, which Baucus helped enact, although existing lease holders retain rights to develop the region.
“The TRCP applauds Senator Baucus’s dedication to safeguarding lands important to sportsmen along the Rocky Mountain Front,” said William Geer, director of the TRCP Center for Western Lands and a Montana resident, “and we join the senator in thanking the companies for their decision to help conserve of some of our nation’s most valuable fish and wildlife habitat, unique landscapes and prized hunting and fishing opportunities.”
Geer stressed that the high value of the leases is confirmed by data gathered from the TRCP’s Sportsmen Values Mapping Project, which captures sportsmen’s input to delineate significant hunting and fishing areas. “These leases are located in an area identified by sportsmen in 43 clubs in 32 towns across Montana as having some of the highest hunting and fishing values in the state,” he continued, “and where sportsmen want to see these values retained in the face of development.”
A number of Montana sportsmen’s groups have signaled their support of today’s decision, including Flathead Wildlife Inc. in Kalispell, the Laurel Rod & Gun Club, the Park County Rod & Gun Club in Livingston, Montana Rivers in Bozeman, the Russell Country Sportsmen’s Association in Great Falls, the Helena Hunters & Anglers Association, Hellgate Hunters & Anglers and the Big Sky Upland Bird Association in Missoula, the Montana Wildlife Federation, the Public Land/Water Access Association in Billings, the Anaconda Sportsman’s Club, the Skyline Sportsmen’s Association in Butte and the Dawson County Rod & Gun Club in Glendive.
“Sportsmen appreciate that our public lands play host to a range of uses, including oil and gas drilling and other forms of development as well as hunting and fishing,” said TRCP Energy Policy Manager Steve Belinda. “We firmly believe, however, that responsible development of these lands can be pursued while maintaining the customary uses and outdoor traditions enjoyed by generations of Americans. Today’s decision demonstrates that this vision of true multiple use is indeed attainable.”
The TRCP believes that to better balance the concerns of fish and wildlife in the face of accelerating energy development, federal land management agencies must follow the conservation tenets outlined in the FACTS for Fish and Wildlife.
Inspired by the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, the TRCP is a coalition of organizations and grassroots partners working together to preserve the traditions of hunting and fishing.