PROJECT | The Trans-Pecos Pipeline { 33 images } Created 11 Nov 2015

The Trans-Pecos Pipeline is a 600-mile gas transportation line planned to transport natural gas from Fort Stockton, Texas, to Topolobampo, Mexico. Commissioned by high profile American and Mexican politicians, the pipeline will be 42 inches in diameter and will carry as much as 1.4 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day, under 1,400 pounds of pressure per square inch.

Most of the pipeline route traverses private lane, and falls inside the Chihuahua Desert, one of the three most bio-diverse desert regions on Earth, home to the Big Bend State Park, 446 species of birds, 3,600 species of insects, over 1,500 plants, and 75 species of mammals. Conservationists are concerned about the destruction of nearly 1000 acres of Priority Conservation Area by the project, and the disturbance of 45 high risk Conservation Target Species.

President Obama and then-Mexican President Calderón recognized the historical, cultural, and ecological value of preserving the Chihuahua Desert in a Bi-National Agreement, cosigned in 2010, stating that, “increased cooperation in these protected areas would restrict development and enhance security in the region and within this fragile desert ecosystem.”

Opposing locals in Texas resent the imposition of industry into one of the few untouched areas of the state, and worry that it could open doors for expansion, pollution, and development. The regional economy, strongly based in eco-tourism, ranching, and hunting, relies on and celebrates the idea of the Big Bend area as an unspoiled, untainted sanctuary - one of the last truly natural escapes in Texas. They fear falling property prices, trespassing surveyors, and the seizure of huge areas of private ranch land by bureaucratic force.

Across the Rio Grande, Mexican landowners reluctant to sell to the development are disappearing. The Juarez valley, a band of land that skirts the Texas border and stretches all the way to Chihuahua, is pegged for industrial development. Oil and gas projects, including the southern section of the TPP, are on the drawing board, and the earth beneath them is being emptied of inhabitants. “Towns are abandoned,” says Tony Payan, Director of the Mexico Center, at the Baker Institute, Rice University, “you can’t tell by the land, but you can tell by the houses, some of them even bear the signs of shootings. You can see the bullet holes in the walls.”

Supported by the Society of Environmental Journalists
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