Enable Midstream: Enhancing right of way habitat for wildlife

When most people think of a pipeline company, the thoughts associated are not typically synonymous with ecology management. By collaborating with organizations such as the NWTF and Quail Forever, Enable Midstream is dispelling such associations with their increasing presence in habitat and wildlife management.

“Many landowners have a lot of questions and concerns when a pipeline company comes through their property, but when they learn about the partnership between Enable Midstream and the NWTF, they become more open-minded because people know of our commitment to wildlife and habitat management,” said Steve Barlow, NWTF’s director of energy partnerships.

Enable Midstream is an investor-owned company, established in May 2013, that owns, manages and creates natural gas and crude oil infrastructures. Primarily rooted in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana and branching into Texas, Enable Midstream gathers, processes and transports natural gas and crude oil.

As a pipeline company, Enable Midstream believes in enhancing wildlife habitat; the company uses environmental scientists to ensure it is properly managing the environment within its rights of way.

Enable Midstream takes it a step further by collaborating with conservation organizations, such as the NWTF, to increase wildlife habitat along its rights of way. One of the NWTF’s roles in this partnership is to review proposed plans.

“Our staff reviews their management plans and also gives suggestions, until we are all on the same sheet of music,” Barlow said.

With the help of the NWTF, Enable Midstream is using science and conservation work to enrich the habitat of its rights of way.

Previously, the industry standard was to mow rights of way every few years. This process made pipelines difficult to access for maintenance and encouraged growth of grasses and trees that did not benefit wildlife. In addition, when pipeline rights of way cross public lands, there are limits to mowing.

“If we treated this like we would have in the old-school pipeline world, we would have mowed this right of way and, under Federal Energy Regulatory Commission regulations, not touch it again for three more years,” said Connie Oslica, Enable Midstream’s senior director of field operations. “This would not have been good brooding for many species.”

After collaborating with the NWTF, Enable Midstream found a more environmentally friendly method, which also cut costs.

“This partnership accomplishes two important goals: It creates an excellent wildlife hub and decreases operational expenses to maintain that right of way,” Barlow said.

Instead of mowing areas that encompass almost 14,000 miles of rights of way, Enable Midstream found that spraying selective herbicides can eliminate woody and other undesirable species. This promotes beneficial grasses and forbs, which make for great pollinator and brood habitat.

Enable Midstream’s rights of way cross a variety of land types, including agricultural operations, national and state forests and private lands. Many rights of way cross public lands that are open for hunting and support wild turkey populations. The NWTF and Enable Midstream collaborate in these areas to conserve or create ideal habitat for wild turkeys.

 After only one year of collaborating to enhance wildlife habitat on Enable Midstream rights of way, the NWTF has already endorsed 2,000 acres for habitat improvement, evidence of the benefits of shared stewardship between the company and the federation.

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