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Judge Lifts Roadblock on Badger-Two Medicine Travel Decision

January 31. 2011

WHITEFISH, Mont. - A federal district judge has cleared the roadblock on the U.S. Forest Service's Badger-Two Medicine travel plan.

The agency banned motorized access in most of the area to protect fragile zones from damage and out of respect for the Blackfeet Tribe, which twice passed resolutions urging limited motorized access. Motorized groups sued, saying the ban wasn't a balanced approach to management, but U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon dismissed their lawsuit.

Jack Gladstone is a singer and member of the tribe, which considers the Badger-Two Medicine to be a sacred site.

"Blackfeet Indian people have been in relationship with these mountains and this area since we first became aware of ourselves and our identity."

Archaeological evidence dates tribal presence in the area back at least 13,000 years, Gladstone says, and historical and cultural traditions are also preserved through story telling.

"You know, I can recall my father and my grandmother telling me stories in their own individual lives, as well as stories that were attached from the collective memory in every stream or river."

The Badger-Two Medicine is in the Lewis and Clark National Forest. The travel decision was also based on 35,000 public comments.

The plan allows motorized access on eight miles of established trails and bans all snowmobile travel. Elsewhere in the forest, 700 miles of trails are open for all-terrain vehicles, dirt bikes and snowmobiles.

Deb Courson, Public News Service - MT