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Time Capsule Project Under Way at Blackfeet Reservation

February 13, 2012

EAST GLACIER PARK, Mont. - An East Glacier Park scientist and professional photographer is on a mission. He wants to be sure there are plenty of "before" pictures on hand as the landscape, and people, change on the Blackfeet Reservation. And he is making his collections of photos and maps available for anyone to see at

The area has been home to the Blackfeet people for about 12,000 years. Recently, it has become a hot spot for oil and gas leasing - up to 700 projects are expected in the coming years. Tony Bynum is compiling photo maps and other images against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountain Front.

"This landscape is permitted and leased for drilling. This is what it looks like now. In the next year, or two years, when they start drilling, we can go back and say, 'Now, here's what it looks like.'"

The reservation's prairie-mountain landscape is home to grizzly and black bears, bull trout, Canada lynx, elk, deer, bighorn sheep and mountain goats - critters known to be sensitive to the building of wells, drilling platforms, housing and roads, he says.

Bynum notes that the human population will also change, as workers move in for the projects and new retail outlets open to serve them.

"My hope is that by providing this information it helps educate people locally, as well as nationally. And what they choose to do about the activity is kind of up to them."

Bynum is taking aerial and ground-level photos, and using GPS documentation to help provide perspective as developments move ahead. Even wind turbines are expected to become part of the landscape.

"If I capture the imagery and I locate it all, in 20 or 30 or 40 years the history's going to be there. It could be reproduced. Someone could go back and put the story together."

Having the records on hand could also help with rehabilitation when the wells run dry.

Bynum is paying for most of the project out of his own pocket and is not associated with any outside company, organization or government agency - although he is accepting donations from anyone interested in preserving the historical record.

Details about the project are available at

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MT