We Stopped a Fossil Fuel Pipeline in Idaho….And We’re Just Getting Started

Canada Lynx. Photo: Eric Kilby.

This week, we secured a huge victory for the climate, as well as free-roaming endangered species like grizzly bears, wolverines, and lynx, when we stopped a natural gas pipeline called the “Crow Creek Pipeline” in Idaho. Our organizations, Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Yellowstone to Uintas Connection, have been fighting a legal challenge against this pipeline for over two years, and our unrelenting efforts just paid off. Not only did the government cancel the pipeline, but it also made a legally-binding commitment to us to conduct a complete environmental analysis before the pipeline could ever be brought back from the dead.

What we did in this case was unprecedented: after litigating this case for two years and filing our opening brief, the government tucked its tail and ran, without even waiting for a final court order. We have never seen this in a legal challenge to a pipeline before. What this means is no possibility for any appeals to an ideological Supreme Court that would reverse this win if given the chance. Instead, this win is here to stay.


Since time immemorial, native wildlife, including grizzly bears, lynx, and wolverines have inhabited and traveled the higher elevation connections between the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the Uinta Mountains, linking the Northern and Southern Rocky Mountains. In the midst of the largest mass extinction since the dinosaurs, this unique area must be protected and managed as a wildlife corridor for our endangered wildlife species. It is not a dumping ground for extractive industries.

Despite the incalculable value of this wild place, in 2019, the U.S. Forest Service authorized a fossil fuel company to clear-cut a 50-foot-wide corridor through publicly-owned National Forest lands –including six Inventoried Roadless Areas — for construction of a pipeline.  The Forest Service decision provided the private company with a 50-foot right-of-way during construction and a permanent 20-foot right-of-way to maintain the pipeline.   The decision also allowed above-ground facilities such as valves and staging areas.

In addition to the harm to the climate, the pipeline would have increased illegal wildlife killings, invasive weeds, and illegal motorized use. Critically, lynx, grizzly bears, wolverines, greater sage grouse, Ute ladies’ tresses orchid, and yellow-billed cuckoo — all endangered — may be present in this area. Additionally, six Inventoried Roadless Areas would have been defiled by this pipeline.

In fact, the pipeline was so inconsistent with the governing “Forest Plan” for these public lands that the Forest Service had to change the management plan for the entire National Forest for the benefit of one private fossil fuel company.  In essence, the federal taxpayers who own these public lands were set to subsidize the profit margin of a private natural gas company at the expense of the climate, public lands, and endangered wildlife.

Our litigation stopped this pipeline before the company could even break ground.


This is not just a win for us; it is a win for the planet. One less pipeline. There is a catch, though. The catch is that we are left holding the legal bill. Our legal costs for this case were over $100,000, which is still a lean budget to stop a pipeline with complex federal litigation.

The government agreed to pay a measly $12,500 toward our legal costs. So now we need your help to raise almost $90,000 to pay for the true financial cost of our win.

During the month of August, all donations will go to our Climate Protection Legal Fund, which will pay off our legal bill from the first pipeline lawsuit, and prepare us to win our next pipeline lawsuit.

Please make a tax-deductible donation here: https://allianceforthewildrockies.org/take-action/

Mike Garrity is the Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies.  Jason Christensen is the Director of Yellowstone to Uintas Connection.