Coalition of Industry, Federal and Nonprofit Partners Support Habitat for Fish and Wildlife in the Pecos River Watershed

2/25, 5:00 PM (Source: GlobeNewswire)

HOUSTON, TX, Feb. 25, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), the U.S.D.A.’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and a coalition of seven oil and gas corporations today announced a number of early successes resulting from investments in fish and wildlife and their habitats in the Pecos River watershed, which in large part overlays the energy resource-rich Permian Basin.

The Pecos Watershed Conservation Initiative (PWCI) has two primary focuses: restoring Chihuahuan Desert grasslands to benefit migratory grassland birds and pronghorn, and improving aquatic habitats for native desert fish and the Texas hornshell mussel. Since the initiative’s inception in fall 2017, the group has worked to identify and fund critical habitat and species conservation work in this unique desert landscape, where cattle ranching and oil and gas production coexist with many species found nowhere else. To learn more about the objectives and early successes of the PWCI, a short video is available here.

“This unique partnership in the Pecos shows what is possible when corporations, conservationists and landowners work together to address conservation needs,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “In its first years, the Pecos Watershed Conservation Initiative is delivering significant outcomes on the ground and providing new information on wildlife in the Permian Basin, which will benefit native species and local communities for many years to come.”

To date, 12 projects totaling more than $3 million have been funded. When complete, they will result in restoration or enhancement of more than 9,000 acres of grasslands, protection or establishment of two populations of endangered or threatened desert fish, and intensive monitoring of a suite of native species whose habitats and behavior were previously poorly understood.

“In the Permian Basin, energy development has grown tremendously,” said Russell Martin, Jr., wildlife diversity biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, which received initiative funding. “By partnering with industry, we’re able to find opportunities to help keep the wild places wild.”

In a joint statement, the seven energy industry members (Apache Corporation, Chevron, Marathon Oil Corporation, Noble Energy, Occidental, Shell and XTO Energy) in the initiative said: “We are encouraged by the early achievements of our conservation partners implementing projects on the ground, which we have been able to support through this initiative. It is clear that our investment in the future of the Pecos River watershed is providing real benefits to local communities, landscapes and wildlife.”

A Big Victory for a Small Fish

The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) received funding in the inaugural year of the PWCI to secure a stronghold population of the state-listed Pecos pupfish from the threat of invasion and hybridization with the sheepshead minnow. By replacing failing barriers to sheepshead minnow migration and developing a maintenance plan to ensure long-term viability of habitat improvements, NMDGF secured 30 percent of the core population of Pecos pupfish and improved more than 90 acres of Pecos pupfish habitat on Bureau of Land Management land near Roswell, New Mexico.

“There are a number of endemic species here, like Pecos pupfish, that have evolved in these conditions,” said Joanna Hatt, native fish biologist, NMDGF. “They don’t exist anywhere else in the world, and they are important to maintaining the ecosystem of the many unique aquatic species that exist only in the Pecos River Watershed and surrounding Chihuahuan Desert. That makes this place pretty unique. I feel good about the persistence of Pecos pupfish because we have really strong working relationships with all these different agencies that care about doing conservation for the species.”

Understanding Migratory Grassland Birds

While partners like NMDGF have hit the ground running, other recipients of PWCI funds are building a foundational understanding of species prevalence and their conservation needs. Bird Conservancy of the Rockies is implementing a novel surveying protocol to monitor migratory grassland birds such as the Sprague’s pipit and Chestnut-collared longspur, which travel 1,500 miles each year from their summer breeding range in the northern Great Plains to wintering grounds in the Chihuahuan Desert. Populations of these birds have declined in recent decades, and much is still unknown about their habitat needs and stressors. This baseline survey of migratory grassland birds will enable initiative partners to focus and track the impact of investments in grassland restoration over time and ultimately, ensure that these species continue to thrive on the landscape.

“Grassland birds have declined by half since the 1970s, and the conservation community is still at a loss as to what exactly is driving these declines,” said Maureen Correll, landscape ecologist with Bird Conservancy of the Rockies. “Our project will collect baseline numbers to understand how birds are using desert grasslands during the winter, and also measure the effect of habitat manipulations on these bird populations to help inform management of these important grassland areas into the future.”

​These early successes have emboldened both the funding partners and organizations on the ground, and the announcement of a third slate of new grants in spring 2020 is anticipated to further broaden the coalition of organizations investing time and funding to restore and enhance critical fish and wildlife habitat in the Pecos River Watershed.

About the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
Chartered by Congress in 1984, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) protects and restores the nation’s fish, wildlife, plants and habitats. Working with federal, corporate and individual partners, NFWF has funded more than 4,500 organizations and generated a conservation impact of more than $5.3 billion. Learn more at www.nfwf.org.

About Apache Corporation
Apache Corporation is an oil and gas exploration and production company with operations in the United States, Egypt and the United Kingdom. Apache posts announcements, operational updates, investor information and copies of all press releases on its website, www.apachecorp.com, and on its Media and Investor Center mobile application, which is available for free download from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.

About Chevron
Chevron and its legacy companies have been a fixture in the Permian Basin since the early 1920s. In 2011, Chevron produced its 5 billionth barrel from the Permian, and today we are among the largest producers of oil and natural gas in the basin. With approximately 2 million net acres of resources, Chevron is the Permian Basin’s largest net acreage holder. Chevron’s drilling program is expected to grow oil and natural gas production over the next several years as technology enables greater success in finding and developing energy. Chevron is committed to responsible practices that conserve fresh water and protect land, air and species unique to the Permian region. More information about Chevron’s practices can be found at https://www.chevron.com/projects/permian.

About Marathon Oil Corporation

Marathon Oil Corporation is an independent exploration and production company based in Houston. The company’s strategy is focused on the lower cost, higher margin U.S. unconventional resource plays that are liquids rich. A multi-basin portfolio includes the Eagle Ford in Texas, Bakken in North Dakota, STACK and SCOOP in Oklahoma, and Permian in New Mexico. The company has a long-standing commitment to environmental stewardship and believes that protecting the environment is a direct and critical outcome of operational excellence. Its stock trades under the ticker symbol: MRO. For more information, please visit the company’s website at www.marathonoil.com.

About the Natural Resources Conservation Service
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that provides one-on-one, personalized advice on the best solutions to meet the unique conservation and business goals of those who grow our nation’s food and fiber. NRCS helps landowners make investments in their operations and local communities to keep working lands working, boost rural economies, increase the competitiveness of American agriculture, and improve the health of our air, water, and soil. NRCS also generates, manages, and shares the data, research and standards that enable partners and policymakers to make decisions informed by objective, reliable science. In simpler terms, NRCS’s focus is “Helping People Help the Land.” For more information, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov​.

About Noble Energy
Noble Energy is an independent oil and natural gas exploration and production company committed to meeting the world’s growing energy needs and delivering leading returns to shareholders. The Company operates a high-quality portfolio of assets onshore in the United States and offshore in the Eastern Mediterranean and off the west coast of Africa. Founded more than 85 years ago, Noble Energy is guided by its values, its commitment to safety, and respect for stakeholders, communities and the environment. For more information on how the Company fulfills its purpose: Energizing the World, Bettering People’s Lives®, visit https://www.nblenergy.com​

About Occidental
Occidental is an international oil and gas exploration and production company with operations in the United States, Middle East and Latin America. We are the leading producer and largest acreage holder in the Permian Basin. Occidental is advancing a lower-carbon future with our subsidiary Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, which promotes innovative technologies that drive cost efficiencies and economically grow our business while reducing emissions. Occidental’s midstream and marketing segment provides flow assurance for our oil and gas segment, while maximizing the value of our products. OxyChem, our chemical subsidiary, is among the top three U.S. producers for the principal products it manufactures and markets. Occidental posts or provides links to important information on our website at oxy.com.

About Shell
Shell companies have operations in more than 70 countries and territories with businesses including oil and gas exploration and production; production and marketing of liquefied natural gas and gas to liquids; manufacturing, marketing and shipping of oil products and chemicals and renewable energy projects. Over the past 100 years, Shell has helped preserve and protect habitat and species through hundreds of conservation projects and initiatives. Collaborating with key organizations and environmental NGOs has enabled Shell to leverage its efforts to ensure the highest possible impact – including the protection of more than 13 million acres of wetlands.

About XTO Energy
A subsidiary of ExxonMobil, XTO is a leading oil and natural gas producer in North America with expertise in developing tight gas, shale gas, coal-bed methane and unconventional oil resources. XTO or its affiliates operate in all of the major U.S. unconventional producing regions and Western Canada. XTO also provides support and technical services to ExxonMobil’s operations in Argentina. The company manages 11 million acres with a total resource of about 139 trillion cubic feet equivalent.

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Rob Blumenthal
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
(202) 857-0166
rob.blumenthal@nfwf.org

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