Safe Harbor Agreements
Since its passage in 1973, the Federal Endangered Species Act has successfully prevented many plant and animal species from becoming extinct. However, encouraging and rewarding good stewardship to promote species recovery has been more difficult. In Landowner Assurances for Habitat Restoration, we work with private property owners to reward them for enhancing habitat and contributing to the recovery of endangered species.
Endangered California red-legged frog
To many landowners, endangered species on private property represent an avoidable problem. Areas cleared of vegetation minimize the possibility that endangered species will take up residence. While landowners appreciate biological diversity, they consider the issue a business decision. By managing their land in this way, landowners can reduce the risk of land use restrictions and fines, and they can simplify some permitting processes. But, neither the species nor the landowner benefit from this type of management.
One goal of Landowner Assurances for Habitat Restoration is to improve habitat for endangered species on private property. This project provides legal protection from endangered species laws for landowners engaging in activities that provide a net gain for endangered species populations, either through Safe Harbor Agreements or a consultation process with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. With legal assurances in place, we are optimistic that landowners will go further to manage their property in ways that attract and benefit the recovery of endangered species.
Endangered Valley elderberry longhorn beetle.
Photo courtesy of USFWS.
Another goal of the project is to work with state and federal regulatory and non-regulatory agencies to help them recognize opportunities for working with landowners to support and encourage activities that benefit endangered species. Landowner Assurances offers legal protection for landowners who create endangered species habitat on their property, and assurance endangered species will not become extinct.
This project is a cooperative effort undertaken with the support of Environmental Defense, and in coordination with their five-year "Back from the Brink" campaign. Back from the Brink works to benefit imperiled wildlife and to demonstrate that progress can be achieved toward their recovery with tools and resources such as Safe Harbor Agreements.
During the project's first phase, recovery efforts will focus on two California species: the California red-legged frog and the Valley elderberry longhorn beetle. These species have been chosen because both are frequently found living on private property, and their populations benefit from specific management efforts, such as creating new ponds and managing existing ponds. Recovery efforts by landowners can help the declining populations of both these species.