Protecting the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation

For more than 15 years, the Center has provided legal representation to the Assiniboine and Gros Ventre Tribes of the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in their fight for environmental justice and clean-up of the contamination caused by the Zortman-Landusky gold mines.

The reclamation of the mines is ongoing, and we are seeing continued improvement in the water quality in King Creek, Alder Gulch and Swift Gulch. Even so, the pollution often continues to exceed state water-quality standards, particularly for cyanide. A Technical Working Group is monitoring the progress, and we continue to provide the Working Group with the legal advice needed to further its work. We are coordinating with the State of Montana to continue using the Technical Working Group for an additional two years, in the hope that water-quality standards will come into compliance.

Earlier this year the Center conducted a general environmental-training session for Tribal Council members and employees to help them gain a better understanding of the laws and legal tools they can draw on to protect their environment and their citizens. We also will provide additional training on environmental regulations regarding oil and gas development that is under way on and near the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation.

If unchecked, natural resource development on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation could undo decades of work the Assiniboine and Gros Ventre Tribes have invested in cleaning up lands and waters already damaged by mining. Still recovering from the environmental contamination of the Zortman-Landusky mines, the tribes are determined not to become victims of environmental assaults in the future. We are committed to working with the tribes not only to help clean up past contamination, but also to ensure their abilities to protect their lands from future contamination.