Date: Thu, 01/14/2010 Contact: Bruce Farling, (406) 543-0054Tom Reed, (406) 599-1022 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: TU applauds Sen. Max Baucus and energy interests for returning Front leases to BLM New additions will bring total to 111,000 acres of permanently protected land HELENA – Trout Unlimited today congratulated Sen. Max Baucus and five energy companies for reaching agreement to return of nearly 29,000 acres in oil and gas leases on the Rocky Mountain Front to the Bureau of Land Management for permanent retirement. These leases are in the wildlife-rich Badger-Two Medicine area and bring the total number of relinquished leases on the Front to 111,000 acres. "This is certainly welcome news to the people of Montana, and particularly to sportsmen and women who value the Badger country and the rest of the Front for its irreplaceable fish and game habitat," said Bruce Farling, executive director of Montana Trout Unlimited, one of a number of groups seeking to protect the Front. "This is a unique place, and it's gratifying to see the wishes of the people of Montana come to fruition. The Front is simply too special to sacrifice to the drill bit, and I'm glad responsible energy companies are giving up these leases and leaving this portion of the Front intact for future generations." Together, Occidental Petroleum Corp., Williams Co., Rosewood Resources, XTO Energy Inc., and BP are giving 28,730 acres in leases back to the BLM for retirement. After this transaction, about 73 percent of the Front's 152,000 acres of federal oil and gas leases will be permanently retired. In the past, TU has worked as an intermediary between energy companies and the BLM. The organization has accepted drilling leases from industry and then donated the leases back to the BLM for retirement. "Protecting this habitat protects some great habitat for cutthroat trout and wildlife, as well as wonderful opportunities for angling and other recreational opportunities," Farling said. "That the leases will no longer be eligible for development means we're one step closer to full protection for the Front." The Badger-Two Medicine region of the Front was legislatively protected from additional leasing in 2006, thanks to legislation co-sponsored by Sen. Baucus. Baucus was on hand Thursday at a ceremony in Helena, where the leases were formally handed over to the BLM. "We appreciate the efforts by our delegation in Washington to support our work to protect the Front," said Tom Reed, Montana field coordinator for Trout Unlimited. "It's good to know sportsmen and women in Montana have allies looking out for our interests back home." Trout Unlimited is the nation's oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization. It has over 140,000 members dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America's trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds.