|Where the Least Bell's Vireo occurs on private land, a programmatic "Safe Harbor" could help protect dozens of at-risk riparian species from the Central Valley to Baja California. PRBO photo.|
To work through this roadblock—and produce a win-win situation for landowners and endangered species—the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, working with California Department of Fish and Game, has begun developing agreements with private landowners called "Safe Harbors." These are voluntary agreements between USFWS and private landowners, using a third party (typically a non-governmental organization) as a go-between.
When a landowner enters into a Safe Harbor agreement for one or more named endangered species, the relevant populations and habitats are effectively "frozen" at their current levels. The landowner agrees to carry out enhancement and monitoring activities expected to benefit the endangered species (as well as many others utilizing that habitat). In return, USFWS assures landowners that their actions will not result in additional ESA responsibilities and regulations.
PRBO is currently developing a programmatic Safe Harbor for the Least Bell's Vireo throughout its range. (This endangered species nested in the San Joaquin Valley in 2005 for the first time in perhaps 60 years.) As landowners take advantage of this innovative agreement, dozens of at-risk riparian species—along with Least Bell's Vireos—will benefit from conservation projects, from the Central Valley to Baja California del Sur, that might not otherwise happen.