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US cancels final two leases near Glacier park

Tracts on land sacred to Blackfeet tribe no longer subject to oil and gas drilling

The US Department of the Interior has cancelled the final two oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine area in north-west Montana near Glacier National Park, land sacred to the Blackfeet Native American tribe.

The leases, owned by JG Kluthe Trust of Nebraska and oilman WA Moncrief of Texas, were issued in the 1980s and no oil and gas drilling has taken place on them, Interior said in a statement.

It follows an agreement struck with Devon Energy last year that saw the US independent agree to relinquish 15 oil and gas leases in the same area. Companies like BP and Occidental Petroleum have relinquished their own leases, taking advantage of tax incentives to do so.

Another lease was cancelled in March, but that one is subject to a pending federal court challenge by Louisiana-based Solenex.

"The cancellation of the final two leases in the rich cultural and natural Badger-Two Medicine Area will ensure it is protected for future generations," said Interiro Secretary Sally Jewell.

The Blackfeet have for decades fought to reclaim the land, which is home to the tribe's origin story.

There were originally 47 tracts leased out to oil companies in the Badger-Two Medicine area. Congress voted to withdraw the area from mineral development in 2006.

The Badger-Two Medicine is a 130,000-acre area within the Lewis and Clark National Forest.