Letter from America

Things are different in America - still. Despite all the togetherness of the internet and super-easy air travel, you can even today be surprised (for good or ill) ...

...at what's going across the Atlantic. This blog, borrowing its title from the legendary Alistair Cooke, aims to keep you in the picture about things you might not otherwise know.

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18 November 2012 - 4:50pm | posted by | 0 comments

US wildlife organisation 'hits the jackpot ' as BP gives billions

National parks: in need too?National parks: in need too?

For some people in America, far removed from the Gulf of Mexico , BP - or British Petroleum as Obama prefers to call it - must seem like the gift that keeps on giving.

That's certainly true of Team America, the US Olympic athletes who will again benefit from BP sponsorship largesse at the next Olympics as they did this year. (I think the British team got help with their transport).

Now the US National Fish and Wildlife Foundation which has "operated on a modest budget in relative obscurity for nearly three decades" has as the New York Times put it dellicately , "won the lottery."

Over the next five years, BP will give the foundation nearly $2.4 billion as part of the company's oil spill deal last week with the feds.

The foundation’s executive director, Jeff Trandahl was said to be fielding a slew of calls as people asked him how he might start spending the millions of dollars.

“In conservation, everyone’s been waiting for this day,” he said. “This is the first step forward toward restoration and recovery. Now, the question is how do the troops start moving forward.”

The foundation — created in 1984 in the face of threatened budget cuts by Ronald Reagan — receives about $15 million annually from the government. Other federal grants add $45 million, and there are donations of about $16 million a year from private donors and companies including Wal-Mart and Shell.

In its 28-year history, it has been responsible for $2.1 billion in conservation projects around the US, from acoustic monitoring of marine mammals in the Arctic to restoring fish habitat in the Ozarks. The BP "gift" surpasses even that total figure.

The Times says few other groups are as well-positioned as the foundation to dole out the massive funds BP has agreed to hand over . Trusted by BP, the group has already received $22 million in profits that BP got for selling recovered oil from the 2010 spill.

That cash has funded 77 projects in five states, including saving 80,000 to 100,000 sea turtle hatchlings annually and protecting bird nesting sites on 30 islands and beaches.

One irony is that America's national parks, effectively the creation of Scotland's John Muir, Yosemite, Grand Canyon and the like - took out a series of ads in this weekend's papers suggesting some might have to close because of Obama budget cuts. The BP cash will not be finding its way there . It is earmarked for projects in the Gulf region.

There's little doubt that the Deepwater Horizon disaster will go into the record books as one of the biggest man-made disasters of all time. And BP's stunning spend in the aftermath - aside from damages - will go down as the biggest PR campaign of all time.

It will be great when it's over.

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