FEBRUARY 15, 2001 Secretary of Interior Gale Norton on Wednesday said the administration is looking into ways to open up previously closed areas of the Rocky Mountains to oil and gas development. In an interview on FOX News, Norton said the administration is assessing a number of proposals to open up public lands in an area known as the Overthrust Belt. Since a number of laws apply to lands there, development may or may not require Congressional approval. The Overthrust Belt is a geological formation which covers areas in Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho. It includes the Lewis and Clark National Forest which is currently off limits to development. The forest is bordered by the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana on its northern side. According to the US Geological Survey, a number of oil and gas fields are located on or near the reservation but little development has occurred. The Overthrust Belt also streches into the Glacier National Park. The tribe uses areas around the park for subsistence hunting. Senator Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska), who wants the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge opened up for development, believes the Overthrust Belt holds great potential for energy resources. He says 60 percent of the lands have been withdrawn from use.
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