Managing Mitigation Funds to Conserve Bird Habitat
To compensate for the loss of interior forest and secure a construction permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Rockies Express LLC — a business owned by Kinder Morgan, Sempra and Conoco Phillips — agreed to establish a mitigation fund managed by an independent, trusted conservation partner.
THE CONSERVATION SOLUTION
Through mitigation funding provided by Rockies Express LLC to offset the unavoidable impacts of the pipeline expansion, The Conservation Fund established the Rockies Express Migratory Bird Account: A one-time $4 million fund to support projects that conserve forestland across Missouri, Indiana, Illinois and Ohio.
As the fund manager, we evaluated and provided grants to conservation projects, preserving forest habitat and riparian corridors for vulnerable bird species in America’s heartland with impressive results: A total of 14 grants were made to land trusts, local municipalities and state agencies with more than 17,300 acres protected and restored — four times more than the 3,721 acres Rockies Express was required to mitigate. An additional $19 million in funding was brought in from other sources for these projects. As a result, The Conservation Fund was able to help public and private partners to establish the 12,000-acre Vinton Furnace State Experimental Forest in Ohio and the Copperhead Hollow State Wildlife Area in Illinois. In addition, countless number of Cerulean warblers (Setophaga cerulea), hooded warblers (Setophaga citrina), worm-eating warblers (Helmitheros vermivorum), Kentucky warblers (Geothlypis formosa), Bewick’s wrens (Thryomanes bewickii) and other forest-dwelling avian species were given permanent space to rest their wings.
Expedited permitting to complete the project and brought 1.8 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas to a waiting market.
Copperhead Hollow State Wildlife Area Project
One grant from the REX project helped provide matching funds to existing financial support from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the National Wild Turkey Federation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect more than 210 acres of oak and hickory-woodlands adjacent to the DNR’s Copperhead Hollow State Wildlife Area. The property had been a high priority for preservation and its purchase complements broader efforts to protect and restore forests along the bluffs of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers — a significant migration corridor for a variety of sensitive species. Warblers, wood thrushes and whip-poor-wills migrating through Illinois gained more room to stretch their wings by providing landscape scale conservation along this critical migratory route.
Director, Mitigation Solutions
Program Manager, Mitigation Solutions
Mid-Atlantic Regional Director, Conservation Acquisition