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Nature Conservancy faces potential backlash from ties with BP

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Nature Conservancy faces potential backlash from ties with BPWhat De Leon didn't know was that the Nature Conservancy lists BP as one of its business partners. The organization also has given BP a seat on its International Leadership Council and has accepted nearly $10 million in cash and land contributions from BP and affiliated corporations over the years.

"Oh, wow," De Leon said when told of the depth of the relationship between the nonprofit she loves and the company she hates. "That's kind of disturbing."

The Conservancy, already scrambling to shield oyster beds in the region from the spill, now faces a different problem: a potential backlash as its supporters learn that the giant oil company and the world's largest environmental organization long ago forged a relationship that has lent BP an Earth-friendly image and helped the Conservancy pursue causes it holds dear.

Indeed, the crude emanating from BP's well threatens to befoul a number of such alliances that have formed between energy conglomerates and environmental non-profits. At least one conservation group acknowledges that it is reassessing its ties to the oil company, with an eye toward protecting its reputation.

"This is going to be a real test for charities such as the Nature Conservancy," said Dean Zerbe, a lawyer who investigated the Conservancy's relations with its donors when he worked for the Senate Finance Committee. "This not only stains BP but, if they don't respond properly, it also stains those who have been benefiting from their money and their support."

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