El Paso, PLC create Public Lands Management Endowment
Salt Lake City, Utah – After many long conversations between representatives of the Public Lands Council (PLC), the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and Ruby Pipeline, an agreement has been reached, in principle, which seeks to ensure the relationship between the livestock industry and El Paso Corp. continues far into the future.
While details of the agreement are being finalized, it establishes a significant endowment with the mission to “protect, enhance and preserve the public lands grazing industry.”
“The El Paso money will go into a permanent trust, and the earnings on that money will be administered by PLC nationally,” says Jim Magagna, past president of the PLC, who was involved in the negotiations. “The money doesn’t have to relate back to the pipeline – it can be used for any purpose, other than filing litigation, that furthers the well-being of the public land livestock industry, nationally and in any state.”
The concept was formally adopted Aug. 10 after a unanimous vote by the board of directors of PLC, whose board members represent 13 western states, NCBA, the American Sheep Industry Association and the Association of National Grasslands. Neils Hansen of Carbon County represents Wyoming on the Public Lands Council.
“When the final agreement is completed, there will be another vote of the PLC Directors to approve that agreement,” explains Magagna, noting he expects that to come soon. “That agreement will address establishing and managing the trust.”
“While we are concerned about the potential impacts of Ruby’s recent settlement agreement with the Western Watersheds Project and the Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA), we are satisfied that this endowment provides us a tool with which to mitigate many of our concerns,” says PLC President Skye Krebs in a joint press release from PLC and El Paso. “As the organization that has represented public lands ranchers in the West for over four decades, we are confident our industry will benefit from this endowment for many years to come.”
“When we first sat down with El Paso in negotiations, our only request was they cancel agreements with the environmental groups, or significantly modify them,” says Magagna. “El Paso felt, good or bad, that they were signed agreements, and they had an obligation to honor them, and that’s when we began to look at this approach, which gives us resources to help counter those groups.”
“Clearly, our preference would have been to have the agreements with Western Watersheds Project and the Oregon Natural Desert Association become null and void, but that wasn’t doable,” continues Magagna. “This provides some important resources, and is a good resolution of the problems that were caused, and it’s an important way to build a lasting relationship with El Paso in particular, and the mineral industry in general.”
In Wyoming, opinions on the agreement are mixed, at least until the deal’s details are released. Dick Loper of the Wyoming State Grazing Board says his group is “generally in support of the concept.”
“The livestock industry needs more funds available to fight the battles in the industry, but we need to wait until we see the level of detail in the agreement before we make a comment on whether we support it,” says Loper. “We’re in support of the principle, but we’re not yet in a position to comment as to whether this is the way to do it.”
According to information from PLC, the $15 million endowment, $7.5 million to be contributed later this year and $750,000 to be added into the endowment annually for the following 10 years, will be governed by one representative from the PLC and one representative from El Paso Corp. While the principal amount will not be used, the endowment’s earnings will go toward meeting PLC’s mission to serve the public lands livestock industry. Specific projects may include scientific research, education, range monitoring, fire restoration, media and community outreach for the benefit of the public lands grazing industry. It is important to note that funds from the endowment will not be used for litigation.
“We are grateful and proud of the lengthy relationship our company has had with the ranching and livestock industry and we believe that ranchers are important users of public lands,” says Jim Cleary, president of the El Paso Western Pipeline Group in the joint press release. “We are committed to working with all parties – ranchers, environmental groups, legislators, community leaders and other stakeholders – to ensure the Ruby Pipeline is a benchmark for the industry and future energy infrastructure development.”
Following a lengthy planning, outreach and permitting effort, El Paso Corporation recently started construction on the $3 billion Ruby Pipeline, a 680?mile natural gas pipeline that extends from Wyoming to Oregon and crosses through northern Utah and northern Nevada. In addition to providing important energy infrastructure in the West, the pipeline is expected to create nearly 5,000 jobs during construction and provide millions of dollars in property, sales and other tax revenues for counties along its route.
“This is an important project for the individual states, the region and the nation, helping to further establish long?term energy independence and providing a critically needed economic boost for all involved,” says Krebs. “We (the livestock industry) have long supported energy development on public lands, while at the same time balancing the concerns of other multiple use stakeholders and we look forward to working with El Paso to ensure proper stewardship of public lands far into the future.”
Christy Hemken is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.