Enbridge donates $5,000 to help Tallgrass Prairie

Robert Smith rsmith@pawhuskajournalcapital.com

Enbridge Energy, a North American oil-and-gas transmission company, donated $5,000 Thursday to The Nature Conservancy to help with plant-control efforts at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, north of Pawhuska.

Kevin Ruffatto, the company’s Southwest Region Director, said Enbridge directs financial support to three areas of concern — health and safety, community and the environment.

“It nailed that environmental piece,” Ruffatto said of The Nature Conservancy’s request for support, which the Conservancy submitted to the company in April.

Mike Fuhr, state director for The Nature Conservancy, was on-hand to accept Enbridge’s donation. Fuhr said the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve is the Conservancy’s largest preserve area in Oklahoma, and it serves as a convenient place where creative land-management techniques can be demonstrated.

“It’s about, how do you find a solution that works over the long term?” Fuhr said. He explained to Ruffatto that the Conservancy works to maintain a constructive, mutually beneficial dialogue with ranchers and other landowners.

The Nature Conservancy asked for the funding from Enbridge to help it kill invasive plant species at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, a nearly 40,000-acre land tract that it describes as “the largest protected remnant of tallgrass prairie left on the planet.”

The Conservancy’s staff uses ATV-based sprayers and larger spray trucks to spot-spray varying-sized patches of non-native plants trying to grow in the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve.

If not killed off, these non-native plants might “choke out native plants, like the milkweed which is vital for monarch butterflies, and create a toxic environment in which native species cannot survive,” the Conservancy said in its support application to Enbridge.

The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve provides habitat for rare insects, such as the American Burying Beetle, for pollinators such as the migratory monarch butterfly, and is home to an American Bison herd that numbers about 2,500.

Enbridge has about 15,000 employees, most of them in Canada and the United States. Its closest major office to Pawhuska is in Houston. The company had 167 employees in Oklahoma as of 2017. Its terminal and crude oil storage facility in Cushing has about 20 million barrels of capacity.

Others on-hand for the check delivery Thursday were Christy Red Eagle of the Osage Nation; Brent Rush, Community Relations Advisor for Enbridge; and Stephanie Taylor, Environmental Advisor for Enbridge. The check presentation took place at the Visitor Center of the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve.