BILLINGS - The state land agency has deferred selling oil and gas leases along Montana's Rocky Mountain Front after conservation groups and state wildlife officials raised concerns over future drilling.
Four tracts along the Front were pulled at the last minute from a lease auction held Tuesday, by the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. They totaled more than 800 acres, including about 520 acres within the Blackleaf Wildlife Management Area in central Montana north of Great Falls.
Objections to the sale had been raised by Montana's Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks and two private groups, the Montana Wilderness Association and the Montana Wildlife Association.
They said the sales threatened to reverse conservation efforts along the wildlife-rich area by Congress. Two years ago, Congress approved a prohibition against drilling on thousands of acres of federal land.