Montana - Blackfeet Indian Reservation - Oil and Gas

State: Montana
Region: Glacier

The Blackfeet Indian Reservation is located in northwest Montana, east of the vanishing glaciers of Glacier National Park.  The Blackfeet call this greater Rocky Mountains region "the backbone of the world" because it located at the headwaters of rivers running towards the Pacific ocean, the Atlantic ocean and the Hudson Bay.

Oil exploration began in this region in the 1920's but mostly on lands on the eastern edge of the reservation.  Local tribe members are concerned now that the majority of their 1.5 million acres are leased for oil and gas exploration. Industry and the BLM maintain the claim that there are no problems with water quality, but many Blackfeet tribe members are concerned that their ground-water, aquifers and streams have already been polluted. For the Blackfeet, water is the source of their teachings, philosophy, and values, and members are worried that if natural gas development goes unchecked, their water will be at risk.

EcoFlight flew tribal leaders and members of the Blackfeet tribe over the reservation to see where the exploratory wells are, and what lands are proposed for drilling in the future.

Anschutz Exploration Corporation has drilled 14 exploratory wells in some of the most sensitive areas in the reservation, but in 2013 the company announced that they would be shutting down their exploration and would not be doing any further drilling in this area, stating that they did not find enough resources to support further exploration. This is excellent news and a demonstration that when individuals join together to voice their concern over natural resources and the unknown effects of hydraulic fracturing, it can have an impact. However the remaining two thirds of the reservation is still leased to other oil and gas companies. And at issue now is In early 2014, a tank storing "produced water" or wastewater from a well, spilled into a ravine and into a small drainage. Incidents like this are what worry tribe members who are concerned about the negitive impacts of drilling on their reservation.