NWF Hosts Conference to Discuss Strategies for Protecting Montana’s Centennial Valley
Valley is home to large thriving ranches, vast expanses of public lands including Red Rocks National Wildlife Refuge
On September 30, 2010, the Northern Rockies and Prairies Regional Center hosted a gathering of stakeholders convened in Montana’s Centennial Valley to discuss strategies for protecting the valley from potential oil and gas development in a conference dubbed Centennial Futures.
The unspoiled 50-mile long valley in southwest Montana is home to large thriving ranches, vast expanses of public lands including Red Rocks National Wildlife Refuge, and fantastic populations of wildlife including trumpeter swans, American pronghorn, sage-grouse, grizzly bears, elk, and cutthroat trout.
This wildlife mecca is threatened though by proposed energy leasing. In 2009 energy companies nominated several federal tracts administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for oil and gas leasing. Similar energy leases have also been proposed for state lands in the area. If leasing and exploration results in oil or gas discoveries, the valley could face many new roads, heavy traffic, transmission lines and pipelines, all of which would dramatically degrade local ranchlands and pristine wildlife habitats.
Federal and state agencies, local landowners and regional conservation interests met to review the conservation heritage of the valley, and to discuss ways to address the looming energy threat.
Both old and new policies at the BLM may allow long-term protection for the valley. A new program calls for Master Leasing Plans to be developed for sensitive areas, and one has been drafted and submitted to the agency. Another existing policy may allow the “withdrawl” of federal mineral development rights in the region as well. Since no leases have been processed or auctioned to-date, this may be a very feasible option. State agencies appeared supportive of “following the lead” of the BLM process, which may greatly simplify the search for a protection strategy in the Centennial Valley.
Northern Rockies and Prairies Regional Center
- We have been working to protect land, wildlife and resources in the northern Rockies and prairies since 1981. Issues we focus on include wildlife conflict resolution, responsible energy development, and climate change.