Creating a 670-acre ‘rest stop’ for an epic 2,500-mile journey

Valley Crossing Pipeline, King Ranch team up to support Texas A&M-Kingsville’s monarch butterfly habitat project

Their numbers have fallen off alarmingly in the past 20 years.

One recent academic study predicts that without serious action, there’s a 72 percent chance of their extinction in the next 20 years.

In many ways, the monarch butterfly has become a “poster child” for the loss of native wildlife habitats, says Forrest Smith.

Smith and his colleagues at the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute (CKWRI), based at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, are working hard to help save the monarch butterfly—as well as other pollinators and wildlife—through their South Texas Natives restoration and reclamation project.

And over the past year, the CKWRI has teamed up with Enbridge and the historic King Ranch to develop a strategic “rest stop” for monarchs on their epic 2,500-mile journey from Canada to Mexico and back—670 uninterrupted acres along a 46-mile stretch of Enbridge’s Valley Crossing Pipeline right-of-way.

The entire Kenedy County portion of the Valley Crossing Pipeline’s right-of-way will be planted with a well-researched South Texas native seed mix to provide:

  • much-needed nectar sources, such as milkweed, for monarchs;
  • beneficial habitat for fellow pollinators, as well as wildlife like bobwhite quail; and
  • grazing resources for livestock production.

Last week, Enbridge and King Ranch Inc., a significant landowner along the Valley Crossing pipeline path, announced a joint $100,000 donation to fund the restoration project.

This donation is one example of Enbridge’s commitment to sustainability—helping to meet North America’s growing energy needs in ways that are economically, environmentally and socially responsible.


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“Restoring native plants to a pipeline right-of-way might seem like one small, little piece of that effort of conservation, but it’s a very important one,” said Smith during last week’s news conference. “This project represents one of the largest-scale, and most ecologically significant, monarch habitat restoration efforts ever attempted.”

Enbridge’s Valley Crossing Pipeline project is a 176-mile natural gas pipeline running from Agua Dulce, Texas, and terminating 14 miles off the shores of Brownsville, Texas, ultimately delivering clean-burning natural gas to the CFE, Mexico’s state-owned utility.

Expected to enter service in October 2018, the project will generate about 3,500 jobs and bring a total economic impact of more than $294 million to South Texas.

The joint $100,000 grant will also fund CKRWI’s educational outreach with landowners for the monarch butterfly project, as well as monitoring efforts for three years after the native seed mix is planted.

Robert Underbrink, president and CEO of King Ranch Inc., believes the monarch project will “improve monarch research and habitat” and act as “the beginning of something that we hope will expand over the whole U.S.”

Smith expects the project may serve as a model collaboration between researchers, industry and private landowners to “work together toward effective natural resource conservation solutions in tandem with energy development.”