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BLM study assures gas wells won’t hurt Missouri Breaks

SHARE BLM study assures gas wells won’t hurt Missouri Breaks

GREAT FALLS, Mont. — A proposal to drill eight natural gas wells on land within and adjacent to the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument would not harm the environment or wildlife, a federal agency determined.

The Bureau of Land Management environmental analysis says the proposed wells on existing federal leases should be approved, as long as efforts are made to mitigate any potential environmental effects.

The wells are in an area on the eastern end of the Missouri Breaks monument known as Bullwhacker Coulee, an area of unique rock formations, steep cliffs and forested slopes along the Missouri River.

President Clinton created the monument during his final year in office, designating an area of about 497,000 acres as federally protected.

Three companies have existing leases on federal land in the monument area and want to develop them. The monument designation guaranteed the leases could be developed, although no new ones would be approved.

Ralph Gailey, president of Macum Energy Inc. of Billings, one of the companies holding leases in the area, said he was pleased with the BLM's analysis.

"These little natural gas wells, they don't make a footprint at all," he said. "We don't do anything like the hunters in there, and they still are going to let them hunt."

Environmentalists oppose the drilling, saying wells would cause harm to the fragile landscape.

The agency intends to take public comment on its analysis, made public last week, for a month, and will issue a final decision at a later date.