An agreement with the Blackfeet Tribe allows Anschutz Exploration Corp. to drill exploratory wells at the edge of Glacier National Park

For Blackfeet, Fracking Has Too Much Economic Upside

Carol Berry

Nearly all the Blackfeet Nation’s 1.5 million acres are leased for oil and gas exploration, but on the west the tracts adjoin Glacier National Park, a bastion of pristine nature that is widely regarded as the antithesis of development and industrialization.

A 2006 resolution by the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council allows Denver-based Anschutz Exploration Corp. to drill exploratory wells on a 40,000-acre tract adjoining the Park’s eastern boundary, according to the Missoula, Montana Missoulian.

The region may contain some 109 million barrels of oil and 8.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas as part of the Bakken Shale formation-related oil boom not only in Montana but also in in North Dakota, where the Three Affiliated Tribes reap millions from wells that tap the formation.

Anschutz is actively looking for oil and gas via exploratory wells, all of which are to be hydraulically fractured, according to Grinnell Day Chief, head of the Blackfeet Oil and Gas Bureau as quoted in

The hydraulic process, colloquially termed “fracking,” involves pumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of water and chemicals under high pressure into the earth, creating fissures that allow oil and gas to be extracted.

Twenty-five exploratory wells have been drilled to date this year on the reservation and 34 more are planned by summer’s end, with the number expected to double in 2012, Day Chief said.

Environmental concerns are largely unfounded and tribal ordinances are in place to protect natural resources, he said.

“Oil and gas exploration has really exploded across Indian country in recent years because of the new horizontal drilling technology,” David Spotted Eagle Jr., with the Blackfeet Environmental Office’s Brownfields Program, told the Missoulian. “We have zero tolerance for spills and releases because we’ve reached a point where ignorance is no longer an excuse.”

With reservation unemployment at about 70 percent and a tight tribal budget, the Blackfeet could reap substantial benefits if wells go into production, but some tribal members believe more environmentally friendly options may be available.

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psette's picture
Submitted by psette on
Watch the drillers closely as they drill for oil in the untouched landscape of Montana. If they have an oil spill or accident, make sure in the contract it is written that the drillers are effectively kicked-out. The "white man" has done enough devastation to the N.A. more. It good to forsee profits through a natural resource, but it becomes bad when the profits fall into great deficits that will remain with the native people for a long, long time.

champ's picture
Submitted by champ on
Hello everyone, First of all the Blackfeet Tribal Constitution states any oil and gas agreements have to have the consent of 3/4ths adult members. something the tribal council just overlooked when being handed millions of dollars from the oil and gas corporations of which each tribal member recieved a wopping 200 dollars for christmas one year. Secondly, what does Day Chief mean by unfounded? could it mean the oil pipeline that broke and spewed into milk river for four days before a passerby reported it, or mabey he means he believes there is no danger in drilling miles down and across our sacred aquifers and injecting billions of gallons of our own fresh spring water that has been poisoned with fracking fluid with the sole intention of disinegrating our rock and releasing the flamable gasses stored within. all this under our very own feet. Thirdly the blackfeet Environmental protection agency needs to stand up and say enough fracking because anyone who has ever researched it knows fracking is nothing but bad for the environment and to have the nerve to do it at the headwaters of the U.S.A. and Canada is a blow to the human spirit. I can see why some indians on the old days would choose death rather than live in the new world.