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Habitat conservation because of a natural gas pipeline? Two environmental organizations are promising just that, thanks to an unlikely partnership with a natural gas company. The Western Watersheds Project (WWP) and the Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) reached a $20 million conservation agreement with the Huston-based El Paso Corp. over its proposed installation of the Ruby Pipeline, a 675-mile transmission line that would stretch from the Opal Hub in southwestern Wyoming to Malin, Oregon. In the deal, El Paso plans to establish a $15 million conservation fund for the Idaho-based Western Watersheds Project and a $5 million fund for the Oregon Natural Desert Association over a period of ten years. In turn, WWP’s Executive Director Jon Marvel tells the Elko Daily Free Press, both groups have “agreed not to try to delay or litigate Ruby Pipeline.”

Groups Trade Gas Pipeline Approval for $20 Million Conservation Fund

Habitat conservation because of a natural gas pipeline? Two environmental organizations are promising just that, thanks to an unlikely partnership with a natural gas company.

The Western Watersheds Project (WWP) and the Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) reached a $20 million conservation agreement with the Huston-based El Paso Corp. over its proposed installation of the Ruby Pipeline, a 675-mile transmission line that would stretch from the Opal Hub in southwestern Wyoming to Malin, Oregon.

In the deal, El Paso plans to establish a $15 million conservation fund for the Idaho-based Western Watersheds Project and a $5 million fund for the Oregon Natural Desert Association over a period of ten years.

In turn, WWP’s Executive Director Jon Marvel tells the Elko Daily Free Press, both groups have “agreed not to try to delay or litigate Ruby Pipeline.”

If completed, the pipeline will cross four Western states: Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and Oregon. In its initial design capacity it could stand to transport 1.5 billion cubic feet per day. The company estimates that its installation will cost about $3 billion, according to an official project summary. The project is currently awaiting Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and approval from state historical preservation offices.

El Paso Western Pipeline Group President Jim Cleary tells Adella Harding of the Elko Daily Free Press that the agreement reflects “El Paso Corp.’s industry-leading commitment to environmental stewardship and to this end represents a significant component of the unprecedented voluntary mitigation efforts being applied to Ruby’s construction and operation.”

Both organizations already have big plans for their respective funds (which will not go directly to the organizations, instead to separate funds that will be be overseen by three-member boards.)

The Oregon group’s executive director Brent Fenty, said in the same article, “Protecting the area around Hart Mountain and Sheldon Refuges is critical to ensuring the survival of high desert species like sage grouse and pronghorn antelope.” The Hart-Sheldon conservation Fund could create restoration and conservation initiatives for 5 million acres of habitat.

The Western Watersheds Project, on the other hand, plans to focus almost exclusively on using the money to retire grazing permits by buying them from willing ranchers. The organization is first working on Congressional approval to allow federal agencies to retire these permits, however.

Marvel, a longtime opponent of grazing on public lands, argues that ending grazing along the pipeline would be better for wildlife, water quality, recreation and the environment. “It’s time to end public lands grazing,” he said.

Marvel tells the Green River Star, “These funds will be used to protect sage grouse habitat and the mule deer population in Wyoming.”

The deal is precedent setting and it hasn’t gone unnoticed by the region’s ranching community, which has historically relied on public lands grazing.

David Sparks, a commentator for AgInfo.Net, lambasted the agreement, saying, “So let me get this straight. Marvel and WWP are on a legal crusade to stop the devastion of our public lands by cattlemen (who incidentally have been stewards of the land for over a century) but it’s OK to deal with oil and gas companies and let them have at the land. Gulf oil spill and the like…no big deal with $20 million in your hypocritical pocket.”

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5 comments

  1. A bribe is a bribe is a bribe. Marvel must be in touch with Jesse Jackson and the rainbow coalition to learn that one. Im sure that money could have been better spent bribing our congressmen and senators they come a lot cheaper. Welcome to Change

  2. Extortion pure and simple. But the court system…hey, Winmill’s court is right next door….and Congress is too stupid to reform the laws coherently.
    Business is business, but the pipeline company is getting an FU letter from me anyway. Weasels.

  3. Sheldon and Hart Mountain National Wildlife Refuges can use this help in restoring the natural ecosystems. Livestock grazing was already phased out, and volunteers have helped the refuge staff remove obsolete fencing, but much eco-restoration remains to be done. Money from the El Paso deal will be well spent there.

  4. How does the WWP have control over a pipeline that crosses the whole state? None of this makes sense. How does an oil pipleine do less damage than leasing the land to ranchers and allowing grazing?? What are the short and long term repercussions of this plan? How much of the route will be disturbed, both short term and long term?? The article says that Mr. Marvel “argues that ending grazing along the pipeline would be better for wildlife, water quality, recreation and the environment.” Two things: #1 – Read this closely, he acts as though the pipeline is already in place. Either this is a typo, a misqoute or he is way ahead of himself (which woud be a dangerous way to think).
    #2 – Logically, how can an oil pipeline, with all of its inherent dangers, or at best, environmental challenges, be better for the area than natural consumption and replacement?

  5. Louis - concerned rural citizen

    All your comments are Right On! Its simple Extortion for funding of their pet projects that are Disconnected from the pipeline itself. The 3 billion dollars for the pipeline will: 1) Dig and place the pipe 2) cover the trench. 3) RePLANT vegetation(sage and more) to “look as good or better than before the trenching.” So, the law suite settlement will not fund any restoration caused by pipe line damage, as that will already to accomplished within the current bid agreement. Rather, the settlement will fund the pet projects by the Green Movement. Any of us could have done the same thing to fund our pet restoration projects…See the disconnect? We just don’t have the GALL to sue to fund our own pet projects in the GUISE of ‘public interest’.

    Further, BLM grazing permits require ownership of an adjoining ‘deeded land parcel’…Are the Green groups going to acquire Deeded land to qualify for these grazing permits to then retire ??