In the north, the Rocky Mountain Front includes the 200 square mile (130,000-acre) area that is the Badger-Two Medicine portion of the Lewis and Clark National Forest. The Badger-Two Medicine is named for two crystalline rivers that begin in snowfields and rivulets along thirty miles of the Continental Divide, Badger Creek and the Two Medicine.
Directly adjacent to Glacier National Park, the Badger-Two Medicine roadless area is at the hub of a vast wilderness ecosystem as elk, gray wolves, bighorn sheep, moose, lynx, eagles, harlequin ducks, wolverines and others that cross frequently between various jurisdictions and ownerships.
The Badger-Two Medicine currently is at the epicenter of three oft-controversial issues: Oil and gas drilling, motorized recreation, and cultural claims of the Blackfeet Nation. The Blackfeet and the Lewis and Clark National Forest have proposed designation of the area as a "Traditional Cultural District" under the National Historic Preservation Act. Consultations under this act have bolstered efforts by Blackfoot traditionalists and the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council to preclude proposed gas drilling and off-road motorized vehicles from the B2M.
Proposed gas wells in the Goat Mountain and Hall Creek area remain in limbo. Opposition by the Blackfeet Nation due to impacts on cultural resources has thus far blocked drilling, but long-term resolution remains elusive.
In March 2009, the Lewis and Clark National Forest adopted a travel management plan proposed by the Blackfeet Nation, which emphasizes traditional non-motorized uses in the Badger Two Medicine. Motorized all-terrain vehicles and dirt bikes are now prohibited on over 200 miles of trail in this sacred cultural landscape.
This area is directly adjacent to Glacier National Park and the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana and is sacred ground to the Pikuni (Blackfeet) Nation. As an important spiritual retreat for the Blackfeet people, it is known as part of the “Backbone of the World." These mountains include peaks with legendary Blackfeet names like Morning Star, Poia, Little Plume, Running Crane, Spotted Eagle, Kiyo, Scarface, Elk Calf, Bullshoe, Heart Butte, and Curly Bear.
The Badger-Two Medicine is covered by the Treaty of 1896, which gives Blackfeet tribal members the right to hunt and fish in any portion of the area in accordance with state law and cut wood for domestic use. Blackfeet tribal members have used the Badger-Two Medicine and its waters for hundreds of years for vision quests and for other religious and cultural purposes. While the B2M has been proposed for wilderness designation, tribal leaders claim pre-existing rights would continue under wilderness management.
In 2002, roughly two-thirds (almost 90,000 acres) of the breathtaking Badger-Two Medicine area along the Rocky Mountain Front had been declared eligible for listing as a Traditional Cultural District in the National Register of Historic Places under the National Historic Preservation Act. "The remote wilderness area is associated with the significant oral traditions and cultural practices of the Blackfoot people, who have used the lands for traditional purposes for generations and continue to value the area as important to maintaining their community's continuing cultural identity," the keeper of the National Register wrote.
In addition to the National Historic Preservation Act, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act says it is the policy of the United States "to protect and preserve for American Indians their inherent right for freedom to believe, express and exercise traditional religions ... including but not limited to access to sites, use and possession of sacred objects and the freedom to worship through ceremonies and traditional rites."
The Blackfeet Nation as well as many, many Americans have long recognized the natural values of these lands where the mountains meet the prairie, known as the Rocky Mountain Front. With such exceptional habitat and world-renowned hunting and fishing opportunities, sportsmen, hikers, land managers, ranchers and others have worked for many decades to preserve the Front's wildlife legacy. Locals and visitors alike who have viewed the Front, even from a distance, have some idea why so many care so deeply about it.