(NaturalNews) The country's largest and most vocal environmental group is earning revenue from an oil well on land that it controls in Texas, though the organization promised 10 years ago that it would not permit new oil and gas drilling on land that was supposedly reserved for conservation.
That was revealed in a forthcoming book about climate change by writer and activist Naomi Klein, and the essential underlying facts of the claim were confirmed recently by the group in question, the Nature Conservancy, The New York Times reported.
The left-wing organization, which says it helps protect some 20 million acres of land in the United States, argued that it did not have any choice in the matter of the well. Under terms of a lease the group signed some years ago with an oil and gas company -- a deal organization that officials say they regret -- the Nature Conservancy said it had to allow the drilling of the well in 2007.
'They have just lost their moral compass'
As further reported by the Times:
But the lease contains termination clauses, and Ms. Klein argues in the book that the Nature Conservancy could most likely have stopped the 2007 drilling. The group has earned millions of dollars over the years from gas and oil production on the property, though the 2007 well was not especially lucrative.
According to reports, the property is intended as a refuge for the Attwater's prairie chicken, one of the most critically endangered bird species in North America. The birds, though, appear to have disappeared from the site, though it wasn't at all clear whether the oil drilling was the cause of their relocation. And the group says it went the extra mile to protect the birds, which do still exist, though in small numbers, elsewhere in Texas.
Klein's new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, is due for release Sept. 16, and discovery of the Nature Conservancy's apparent hypocrisy has been getting around in the circles of climate-change believers.
The Nature Conservancy "has just lost its moral compass," Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, a group that works to preserve endangered species, told the Times.
"The very idea of oil drilling inside a reserve is utterly wrong, and it's especially disturbing in this case because the Attwater's prairie chicken is one of the most endangered species in the entire country," she said. "It could very well be the next species to go extinct in the United States."
'Guess the millions they get from Monsanto isn't enough'
A spokesman for the group, James R. Petterson, told the Times that it would prefer to get out of the oil and gas business altogether, but that it has not been able to on the Texas property. Among the Nature Conservancy's top priorities, he said, is the conservation of the ecologically delicate lands that it controls, adding that the group's 3,600 employees are very committed to that goal.
Founded in 1951 and headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, the group describes itself as a charitable environmental organization with a mission to "conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends." The group has long been an opponent of the oil and gas industry. With more than $6 billion in assets, it is by far the largest environmental organization in the U.S.
One of its most basic strategies is to buy ecologically threatened land, or at least the rights to it, and then protect it from, or limit it from, development. The Times notes:
Some of the group's money has come from corporations, or wealthy donors with corporate ties. The group has been dogged for decades by questions about whether it is too close to those corporate interests, as well as whether it has permitted too much development and other economic use of its lands.
Others see the hypocrisy in the Conservancy's actions.
"Guess the millions they get from Monsanto just isn't enough for The Nature Conservancy. They want in on the oil and gas boom, too," wrote David Quilty, of the blog The Good Human.