“My entire family from my grandparents on down have ties up there,” says Tatsey, a rancher who teaches at Blackfeet Community College in Browning. “We’ve got to save these areas for the next generation. Otherwise, they won’t be there.”
Located just south of Glacier National Park and wedged against the flanks of the Great Bear and Bob Marshall wilderness areas, the Badger-Two Medicine faces many threats. High on the list, especially in light of the Bush administration’s push for increased domestic energy production, is oil and gas development. Expanded and largely uncontrolled off-road vehicle use is scarring the land at an alarming rate, and too much livestock grazing is damaging vital habitat for wildlife, Tatsey contends.
“The elk, the game, is moving out of there,” he says of the rugged block of land named after the nearby Badger and Two Medicine drainages. “I think they should get the cattle out of there, get the four-wheelers out of there. They should only allow people to have horses and be on foot. There also shouldn’t be oil and gas development there or anywhere on the Rocky Mountain Front.”
Tatsey’s stance come from decades of witnessing degradation along the eastern edge of the Rockies. The time has come, he says, for the U.S. Forest Service to instate permanent protections for these lands, which also contain many Indian religious sites.
Tatsey, 43, chairs a tribal committee adopting recommendations for the future management of the area, part of which was declared eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.
Mike Munoz of the Lewis and Clark National Forest says federal designation as a traditional culture district, which is still being discussed by tribal leaders, will “influence future decisions regarding oil and gas.”