Could Kinder Morgan’s ‘Permian Highway’ scar the Hill Country?

The golden-cheeked warbler — a compact, yellow-headed songbird that migrates from Mexico to Central Texas each March — is in trouble. The endangered species, which nests nowhere else but the cedar breaks of the Texas Hill Country and surrounding areas, has in recent years seen its habitat shrunk and fragmented by urban sprawl and has faced competition from the brown-headed cowbird, a sneaky rival that likes to lay its eggs in warbler nests. One place the warbler can still find sanctuary is on the 6F Ranch, part of a 3,800-acre property along the Blanco River where environmentally sensitive land has been retired from development. As residential development in eastern Hays County booms, it’s one of the region’s few large tracts to remain intact.

Enter: Kinder Morgan. In October, the multibillion-dollar energy company informed Lucy Johnson, whose family owns the ranch, that it plans to run a natural gas pipeline straight through the property. The ranch is one of thousands of private properties in the path of the so-called “Permian Highway” pipeline, which would trace a southeasterly path from the West Texas oil patch to the Gulf Coast, where the gas will be exported around the globe. On its 430-mile Gulfward journey, the pipeline would gash the Texas Hill Country, a quickly growing and environmentally sensitive region that’s been relatively untouched by oil and gas development.

Read more from Christopher Collins with the Texas Observer here.