Nature Conservancy faces potential backlash from ties with BP

This isn’t the first time TNC has faced controversy over ties to big energy.

Over the years TNC has been accused of “greenwashing” because of their ties to big energy companies.  Of course they claim that the relationships have been productive ones that help conserve more land but their ties to BP are really hurting them now.  In my opinion their record is a mixed bag.  Some of the places they have been able to protect are really important but, in the West, they often continue to graze livestock on many lands even though the lands are not suitable for it.

Here is an older story about how The Nature Conservancy got into trouble with big energy, there are many others during this period as well: How a Bid to Save a Species Came to Grief. Washington Post, 2003.

Nature Conservancy faces potential backlash from ties with BP.
By Joe Stephens – Washington Post






  1. JimT Avatar

    I have it on good authority that an NPO was once offered a 7 figure contribution from the Marcos family in the Phillipines. The Board was sorely tempted, but the CEO prevailed, reminding them that sooner or later, those kind of contributions come back to haunt you. Less than a year later, the crap hit the fan about the Marcos family, corruption, etc.

    TNC and TPL among others probably couldn’t do the work they do, or save the large tracts of land they save without corporate money. But, this kind of thing is the kind of price you pay eventually, especially if it is Big Oil. No matter which way you look it, the money is always dirty.

  2. Tilly Avatar

    I appreciate how WaPo is willing to probe TNC. I remember that scathing series on TNC’s finances several years ago, which included brokering shady conservation easements to get wealthy supporters tax breaks.

    I think this kind of deal, particularly with a national group, is troubling because it has to impact what the group is willing to stand up for. This was discussed in the recent story in The Nation titled “The Wrong Kind of Green,” I believe. I think this commenter on the posted article put it well:

    “Environmental watchdog and consumer organizations are only valuable when they can provide insight thru objective investigation into the often intentionally burred world of corporations and government. We all know the disasterous effects of what happens when government regulatory agencies are staffed by persons from the very entities that they are tasked to oversee. And now we see this same type of unethical partnership has taken a new twist. It shows us just how low people will stoop, regardless what kind of business they are in. Conflict of interest is the status quo.” -geopoet

  3. mikepost Avatar

    The bottom line is this: if TNC can leverage permanent land protection for conservation purposes then deals with the devil can be managed. Not to mention that they have a wide acceptance with the general public. Permanent land protection is the ultimate goal. All other conservation efforts are fairy tales. For my part, the nation would be worse off if not for the efforts of TNC, however flawed. Some folks on this blog would prosecute Santa Clause for freeing carbon residue from the chiminey….

  4. cc Avatar

    This is kind of a non-story to me. The cost of being holier than thou and refusing BP’s $ would mean less wildlife habitat conservation. So I have no problem w/TNC taking $ from undesirables.

  5. Tilly Avatar

    All other conservation efforts other than purchasing land are not fairy tales.
    Purchasing (and privatizing) all important lands is a game we could never win, nor would want to win, since public lands are such a wonderful concept and asset to our democracy.
    I think efforts to reform and protect public lands, as well as regulate activities on all lands (like pollution discharge laws or mining safety laws), have a far greater environmental impact than straight-out purchase of small areas. That’s good too, but not a panacea. We’ll surely lose if we have to purchase everything to protect it.

  6. Tilly Avatar

    Sure, the money may have caused some wildlife protection.
    But what if, without BP on its board, TNC (and other groups) would have lobbied for a stronger climate change bill, and caused it to pass? That might have caused more.

  7. cc Avatar

    The money did go to protecting habitat, that’s what TNC does (over 100 million acres worldwide so far). There’s no evidence of a softening in TNC’s stance on climate change nor any reason enviro groups should be blamed for federal inaction. The passage of strong climate change will only happen when we the people evolve from our lazy, selfish outlook on our environment.


Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

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Ken Cole