First eminent domain lawsuits brought against Big Bend landowners by Trans-Pecos Pipeline

Brewster and Presidio County private landowners under siege by energy corporation

In mid-February, Trans-Pecos Pipeline filed the first eminent domain lawsuits against Big Bend landowners in what is becoming the most hotly-contested issue in the region’s history.

The pipeline is slated to carry natural gas from the Permian Basin to the U.S. border with Mexico near Presidio condemning property from Texas landowners along the way. Despite such heavy-handed tactics, the gas it will transport may not serve a single U.S. customer.

Among the ten defendants of the suits filed in Brewster and Presidio counties is Joel Nelson of Alpine. An outspoken critic of the pipeline, Nelson claims the lawsuit came as a surprise since he had been in negotiation with the company and suspects the lawsuit may be retaliation.

“Maybe it’s because we’ve been a little more vocal than other people have,” he said. “I assume they’re getting irritated that it’s taking so long to get their way out here.”

In addition to raising Corriente cattle, Nelson is a celebrity—the only cowboy poet to be nominated for a Grammy award—and a featured performer of the annual Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Alpine (February 26-27, 2016). Nelson is also a member of the Big Bend Conservation Alliance, the local grassroots group that has led the opposition.

Along with the group, Nelson sees private lands as part of a greater whole, one of the last great unspoiled places in the country. The group recently launched a petition asking President Obama to help stop the pipeline and uphold his Binational Agreement with Mexico pledging to protect the region from development.

“This latest act demonstrates how the company is acting in bad faith,” said Big Bend Conservation Alliance’s executive director, Mattie Matthaei. “These lawsuits represent unprovoked attacks against our landowners, several of whom were negotiating with the pipeline company prior to the lawsuits.”


The Big Bend Conservation Alliance is a non-profit, volunteer-driven organization that seeks to preserve the natural and cultural resources of the greater Big Bend region of Texas. Through education and advocacy, the BBCA and its members from across the state and nation are dedicated to protecting and promoting the region as one of the last great, unspoiled places in the country. For more information, contact Mattie Matthaei at 432-295-2913 or

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