The Beartooth Front Coalition is a nonprofit Montana Corporation representing over 550 landowners along the Beartooth Front in southern Stillwater County, Montana.
Four years ago Beartooth Front landowners became concerned about oil company plans to “bring a little bit of the Bakken” to this beautiful area. They decided to use existing state law to establish reasonable regulations to protect their properties from the dangers of drilling — water, soil, and air contamination, and the costs of drilling that normally fall on landowners — road repair, spills, and so on. Their goal was not to ban drilling, but to make sure that there was a reasonable balance between oil extraction and the agricultural and ranching economy of the area.
Finally, in August, 2017, the County Clerk and Recorder validated that we had achieved over 60% of the signatures.As required by law, they developed a petition and got the overwhelming support of the landowners in the area. They sought the advice and support of the County Commissioners, who refused to work with them or provide information on the standards they would use to validate the signatures.
But then the County Attorney informed us that it wasn’t sufficient just to get just 60% of the surface owners, but that we had to get 60% of the minerals owners in the zone as well. This is an impossible standard, since there are no lists of minerals owners anywhere. Finally, in January, 2018, the County Commissioners rejected our zone 3-0 because we had failed to meet the minerals standard.
In February, 2018 the Beartooth Front Coalition, along with several individual petitioners, filed suit against the County. The suit asks the District Court to require the Commissioners to take action to consider our petition.
Our goal is not to ban drilling, but to make sure that it is done right. We want to do this by adopting reasonable regulations in the zone that
- preserve public health,
- protect private property,
- preserve and improve public infrastructure and public services,
- protect surface and groundwater,
- maintain air and soil quality, and
- maintain the local quality of life by preserving the rural residential and agricultural character of the area.
This web site is designed to provide information to the petitioners and to other interested parties.