Union Pacific and the Land
The U.S. government’s award of land grants to the company as part of building the transcontinental railroad also established Union Pacific as a manager of the land. With ownership of 1 million acres, an area about the size of the state of Delaware, Union Pacific plays an active role in managing land and creating environmental and social value.
Union Pacific balances its commitment to transporting goods efficiently with other considerations including safety, as well as its impact in communities, wildlife and the environment. Rail operations can contribute to land and water contamination. Union Pacific actively works to prevent contamination by employing best practices in operations, overseeing lease tenants and proactively working with customers. The company also restores land contaminated by prior rail operations. In some cases, Union Pacific works with regulators to go beyond the minimum remediation requirements to further protect the land and waterways.
Over time, rail-owned lands provided value as community resources, and Union Pacific has helped transition properties for community enjoyment.
Activities that benefit the land include:
- Recreational projects. Union Pacific donations and site improvements have opened outdoor venues for public use across the west. For instance, Union Pacific’s efforts to create the Trail of the Coeur d’Alene in Idaho’s Panhandle, a 72-mile trail for residents, earned a Phoenix Award for excellence in brownfield redevelopment. Residents in Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and other locations benefit from additional recreational projects.
- Protection of ecological and endangered species. Union Pacific assesses habitats and establishes effective plans for preserving them. For instance, our Habitat Conservation Plan establishes operational processes and protects the desert tortoise, an endangered species in southern Nevada. In the Southwest, the company has made efforts to protect the endangered willow flycatcher. Since 1959, Union Pacific has maintained 30 miles of trees that serve as a windbreak from blowing sand in the Mojave Desert. Union Pacific also actively employs phytoremediation, the use of plants to remove contamination from the ground. The company also manages wetlands areas.
- Commercial and residential redevelopment. Union Pacific operations are frequently at the heart of redevelopment opportunities. Union Pacific has transitioned holdings to bring new life to cities. Whether through transferring iconic depots or developing land into sports, entertainment, or other venues, Union Pacific helps improve skylines and build new neighborhoods. Parts of Denver; Dallas; Houston; Omaha, Nebraska; Sacramento, California; Salt Lake City and San Jose, California, offer examples of Union Pacific’s ongoing connection to redevelopment.