Latest News from Respecting the environment

America's Wetlands

A large flock of ducks

Shell partners with Ducks Unlimited in the United States and Canada to increase the impact of its investments in conservation.

Shell has partnered with Ducks Unlimited in the United States and Canada, as well as with many other organizations, to increase the impact of its investments in conservation.

"When it comes to protecting the natural environment, we see great benefits in investing in strategic partnerships that preserve, conserve, and restore wetland habitats," explains Bruce Culpepper, executive vice president of Shell Americas. "Our partnership with DU is an excellent way to do that through programs and projects that have a lasting, meaningful impact."

Since 2009, Shell has made significant financial contributions to help DU deliver conservation projects in some of the continent's most resource-rich regions, including the U.S. Gulf Coast and Prairie Canada. The most notable of these projects has been on DU Canada's signature property, the Shell Buffalo Hills Conservation Ranch in southern Alberta. This sprawling 6,000-acre property boasts more than 800 wetlands and a considerable amount of intact native prairie. DU Canada sought to raise $12 million to secure the at-risk ecosystem, and Shell's support helped make that a reality.

"This is one of the last remaining tracts of native prairie grassland in an area of intensive grain production," says Perry McCormick, DU Canada's manager of provincial operations in Alberta. "The ecological value of this land, which supports more than 60 waterfowl nests per square mile, is undeniable."

Because its environmental efforts are voluntary, Shell looks for partners that can produce measureable results and provide the greatest return on the company's investments. As with all its projects, DU works to leverage Shell's funds through grant programs such as the North American Wetlands Conservation Act. Additionally, DU engineers and biologists have worked together to implement a monitoring program to measure progress on Shell project sites and report this data back to the company.

Sean Stone, senior director of development for DU, has also been working hand in hand with Shell over the years, appearing at company forums to present and discuss various programs and projects. "Shell wants to know how their support is making a difference, so we've stepped up our efforts," Stone explains. "We are committed to showing them that this is on-the-ground, top-quality restoration work."

Ducks Unlimited and Shell also share a continental view of natural resources conservation. This provides an ideal opportunity for a lasting partnership that will help both organizations achieve their goals across the landscape. "Wetlands loss is a complex and long-term problem that demands a collaborative solution," Culpepper says. "The oil and gas industry will continue to work cooperatively with regulators, academics, elected officials, and environmental groups to find and implement comprehensive solutions. At Shell, we believe that by collaborating with organizations such as DU, we can use their expert advice in shaping our efforts to help conserve biodiversity."

Partnership Benefits Pennsylvania Waterfowl and Hunters

Shell Oil has a significant presence in the Marcellus natural gas development that stretches across Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, and West Virginia. Just 30 miles from Titusville, Pennsylvania, where the country's first oil was drilled in 1859, the company has invested $250,000 in conserving vital habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife.

Ducks Unlimited and a host of conservation partners are currently hard at work using these funds to restore and improve Pennsylvania's most significant wetlands complex, located on the Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area. This vital habitat supports breeding and migrating waterfowl, including Southern James Bay Population Canada geese, mallards, ring-necked ducks, and wood ducks, as well as providing public waterfowl hunting opportunities.

Protecting Key Habitats

Conservation and restoration is among a number of funding priorities of the Shell Marine Habitat Program, a partnership between Shell and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Why does Shell care about increasing the population of oysters? To help stop the decline of coastal estuaries.

Populations of oysters in estuaries in the Gulf of Mexico are vital to the health of an estuary. They filter nutrients, fine sediments and toxins from the water column. They also improve water quality and protect shorelines.

That’s why oyster conservation and restoration is among a number of funding priorities of the Shell Marine Habitat Program, a partnership between Shell and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

In New Orleans, Shell was a major supporter of a pilot effort to get restaurants to recycle oyster shells to provide new habitats.  This innovative program picks up used oyster shells from some of the most notable restaurants in New Orleans. The shells are cleaned and placed into the gulf, where they become fertile grounds for a new crop of oysters.  The program has since grown to be “officially the largest oyster recycle program in the nation” due in part to additional contributions from Shell through the Mars B platform.

Each year, the program funds conservation and restoration activities that result in measurable benefits to key species and their habitats. Shell has funded an array of projects, from creating sustainable fisheries to protecting sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico to increasing the nesting success and survival of shorebirds in the Gulf of Mexico, and Long Island Sound and several projects in Alaska.

Learn more about the innovative oyster shell recycling program

Restoring Marshlands Preserves

Marshland sunset photograph by Jay Johnson

Marsh terraces provide important habitat for a variety of fish and wildlife species.

They also slow wind and wave action, decreasing erosion and promoting marsh growth. That’s why Shell, through the Shell Marine Habitat Program, recently contributed to an effort to restore marsh land at four separate sites in southwest Louisiana.

A marsh terrace is made of soil topped with native plants. Each terrace is approximately 1,000 feet long, 40 feet wide at the base, and about 10 feet wide at the top.  This leaves approximately two feet showing above the water line. Terraces are typically designed in a “V” shape so that regardless of the wind direction, calmer water will occur on the downwind side of the terrace.  The terraces slow wave action, which decrease soil erosion.  They are serve as gathering areas for fish and other sea life and are frequently used by migratory birds.

The Black Lake Terracing Project, led by Ducks Unlimited, built more than 50 miles of marsh terraces to restore 2,500 acres of vital marsh habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife. The terraces will also promote the growth of submerged aquatic vegetation, an important food resource for waterfowl.

The project, led by Ducks Unlimited, is a cooperative effort among 16 partners including the Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, North American Wetlands Conservation Council, NOAA Community Based Restoration Program, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Foundation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and multiple businesses.

Floating Islands

Shell and volunteers infront of a large CCA Support banner at the wetlands beach

Shell volunteers use an innovative idea to protect a native American homeland

Home to Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians, the island of “Isle de Jean Charles” sits along the Louisiana coastal region of the Gulf of Mexico. It is accessible only via a small road that is continuously bashed by erosion, subsidence, flooding and hurricanes. Without this one-way road, the community and culture would simply cease to exist, making the group the first environmental refugees in US mainland history. But one Shell team created an innovative shoreline technology that would have a profound impact. “Floating islands”, as they are known, made of recyclable materials protected Isle de Jean Charles and eventually helped save the community.

The island road links the Native American community to the mainland, but is outside the current levee and hurricane protection plans. This gave rise to the need for more innovative coastal flood protection measures, such as the floating islands project.

Saving a threatened culture

The concept originally started in 2009 with a Shell volunteer’s idea. Though it had previously never been deployed in open water, the Floating Islands Project was an innovative solution that showed promise for tackling and preventing coastal land loss.

The islands are a man-made ecosystem that mimics naturally occurring wetlands and serves to protect and enhance areas impacted by land loss like Isle de Jean Charles. The island’s base material is made from 100% recycled drinking grade plastic which is safe for marine life. They are vegetated with native plant species to help nurture the natural ecosystem and create multiple lines of defense.

In October 2011, more than 200 volunteers, including employees, local students and residents, built and launched 187 floating islands in a demonstration project. Results exceeded expectations. The islands doubled in vegetative growth over three months from the time they were installed, which prompted a second implementation in celebration of Earth Day, in April 2013.

In July 2013, the project received the 1st place Environmental Protection Agency Gulf Guardian Award in the environmental justice and cultural diversity category.

Now, the Shell-led project has successfully created nearly 10,000 feet of protective “Recycled Floating Islands Shoreline.”  The islands are as healthy as the native marsh they are protecting, sustaining and enhancing coastal protection, fisheries and habitat and establishing new land in open water areas. Above the islands, a protected waterfowl nesting and migratory bird habitat now thrives. The project created 10,000 ft2 of Recycled Floating Islands Shoreline.

Following the project’s success, this technology has been replicated in at least nine similar activities across the region, demonstrating feasibility, innovation and enabling communities to take action in sustaining their fragile environment.

Watch a video from the Coastal Conservation Association of Louisiana.

An Opportunity to Mend Nature

Marshlands photograph taken by Gallagher Fenn

In a tiny area near Matagorda, Texas, the Marsh Island coastal prairie boasts more species of water birds than anywhere in the United States.

Erosion of the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway is threatening this important coastal prairie – one of the few remaining ones in the United States. So Shell and The Nature Conservancy, along with other environmental and government partners, are building a 2 ¼-mile rock breakwater barrier to protect this vital landscape.

The Intercoastal Waterway was constructed in the early 20th century as a commercial transportation route along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States. Originally built 100 feet wide by 60 foot deep, over the last 75 years, the channel along the Gulf Coast section has widened up to 500 feet in some places. This aggressive erosion of the waterway has allowed saltwater to intrude on sensitive wetlands and coastal prairies.

“When that happens, we essentially lose the diversity of these habitats,” says Mark Dumesnil, regional manager for The Nature Conservancy. Protecting these habitats is vital, especially considering the United States has lost 99 percent of its coastal prairies and 50 percent of its coastal wetlands, according to Dumesnil.

“This area on the Texas coast is at the bottom end of the central North American flyway for migratory water fowl and other water-dependent species, as well as neo-tropical migrants during their spring migration. So, it’s very important that we protect these habitats, and this project will do that on a much more permanent basis,” Dumesnil says.

The 2 ½-mile breakwater barrier is being built 30 feet from the shoreline out of granite rocks barged to Texas from a Missouri quarry.

The wall will provide a buffer from the wave energy and will protect the marshlands from saltwater intrusion.  “This project will protect and enhance up to 2,500 acres of coastal wetlands and prairie habitat,” Dumesnil notes. “This project is really exciting. It’s really an opportunity to mend nature.”

The Nature Conservancy’s work in the Gulf Coast.

More in Sustainability

You may also be interested in

Who We Are

Shell is a leading oil and gas producer in the United States of America.

Life at Shell

Meet the pioneers, innovators, adventurers and explorers of Shell.