Wednesday, February 1st, 2023
Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Hunters seek removal of Breaks oil leases

Missoula, Mont. (AP) – The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation
Partnership in Missoula is mapping favorite hunting spots in
Montana in hopes of avoiding conflicts between hunters and oil and
gas developers.

The map is based on surveys of hunting and outdoors advocacy
groups throughout the state and is intended to help land managers
understand where high-value hunting areas and their voting
constituencies should receive attention.

One such area is the Missouri Breaks.

“That’s the golden area of the state,” said Theodore Roosevelt
Conservation Partnership policy expert Bill Geer. “If we can’t do
something there, I don’t know what I’m in this business for.”

A network of 40 hunting clubs has requested removal of 225,000
acres of public land from consideration for oil and gas leasing
through the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Their petition has won
support from U.S. Sen. Jon Tester and received official review by
BLM offices in eastern Montana.

Large areas of the Missouri Breaks have potential for oil and
gas exploration. And since recreational interests first objected to
oil and gas leasing there in 2007, no prospector has bid on that
acreage in nine subsequent BLM sales.

“The BLM dismissed our protest, but still no one leased those
acres,” Geer said. “We know it’s got low potential for oil and gas
discovery. I figured I’ve got to be able to capitalize on

Much of the area adjacent to the Missouri River already has
protection from the C.M. Russell and UL Bend national wildlife
refuges. Beyond those boundaries are thousands of public acres that
hold winter range for elk, deer, bighorn sheep and pronghorn. They
also hold the oil and gas leases.

President Bill Clinton’s end-of-term declaration of the Upper
Missouri River Breaks National Monument angered many ranchers and
residents in the area.

So rather than fight for new wildlife refuges, the hunting
groups chose a simpler strategy: Just ask that those BLM lands be
declared unsuitable for energy leasing.

“It is my understanding that the identified area does not hold
significant oil and gas potential, yet the continuing prospect of
leasing and potential exploration causes concern for Montana’s
sportsmen and women,” Tester wrote to BLM Montana state director
Gene Terland in April. “It seems there is an opportunity for the
BLM, energy companies and sportsmen to work together to protect
high-quality public hunting and fishing lands in central Montana,
while not inhibiting responsible oil and gas development in more
promising areas.

“I would respectfully request that you continue to work with the
local, state and national sportsmen groups and carefully consider
their requests.”

That consideration is under way, although it will take a while.
Eastern Montana BLM regional offices are in the process of updating
their resource management plans, which set the rules and priorities
for all lands under their supervision.

In Miles City, BLM spokesman Mark Jacobsen said the request has
become part of the ongoing update to his office’s resource
management plan as a draft alternative.

“We’ve taken the priority areas and made them the focus of our
analysis,” Jacobsen said. “We realize this area is high use for
sportsman groups.”

Field managers will weigh the request along with those of
ranchers, prospectors, dinosaur hunters and others with interests
in BLM lands. A preferred alternative should be selected by next
spring. After a 90-day comment period, the draft plan will return
to the BLM for final tinkering, with release expected in 2011.

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