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GLIN==> Policies to Encourage Landowners to Protect Species

Posted on behalf of Rich Greenwood <Rich_Greenwood@fws.gov>


To encourage voluntary conservation efforts by property owners, the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service have
published joint final policies for "Safe Harbor" and "Candidate Conservation
Agreements with Assurances" under the Endangered Species Act.

"The majority of endangered and threatened species occur on privately owned
lands," said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Jamie Rappaport Clark.
"Working with these landowners is critical to the recovery of many of our
most vulnerable species."

The "Safe Harbor" policy provides incentives for private and other
non-Federal property owners to restore, enhance, or maintain habitats for
listed species. Under the policy, the agencies provide participating
landowners with technical assistance and assurances that additional land,
water, and/or natural resource use restrictions will not be imposed as a
result of voluntary conservation actions that benefit or attract listed
species.  At the end of a "Safe Harbor" agreement, the landowner would be
allowed to return the property to its original "baseline" condition.

The agencies also released their final policy on "Candidate Conservation
Agreements with Assurances" (CCAA) for species that are not yet listed as
endangered or threatened, but are considered to be in decline and could be
listed in the future.

"The goal of this policy is to work with landowners to turn the decline of a
species around in order to make listing unnecessary," said Clark.

CCAAs identify actions that the landowner commits to take to conserve
species.  They may include habitat protection; management; or restoration
actions such as fencing, stream rehabilitation, controlled burns, or species
reintroduction. Landowners who participate in this program will receive
assurances from the agencies that no additional conservation measures above
and beyond those contained in the CCAA will be required and that no
additional land, water, or resource-use restrictions
will be imposed upon them should the species become listed in the future.

These policies are part of a package of reforms initiated by this
Administration to make the Endangered Species Act more effective in
achieving conservation while enhancing its flexibility for private

"Based on numerous discussions with private landowners and environmental
groups, I believe that these policies will encourage landowners to manage
their lands to benefit species," said Clark.  "Now we can provide assurances
that their conservation efforts will not result in additional restrictions."

Currently, there are more than 35 "Safe Harbor" agreements across the Nation
encompassing more than one million acres.  North Carolina's Sandhills Safe
Harbor Agreement was the first of its kind, protecting 5,200 acres of
privately owned land for the red-cockaded woodpecker.  Others cover
endangered shorebirds in Hawaii, threatened butterflies in Oregon, and
endangered prairie chickens in Texas.  One of the largest of the agreements
covering several counties in Texas will support the reintroduction of one of
the most endangered falcons in the world, the Aplomado falcon.

Current Safe Harbor agreements cover properties ranging in size from 2.5
acres to 825,000 acres, making them attractive to both small landowners and
corporate interests.  The Fish and Wildlife Service expects to receive
hundreds of requests for Safe Harbor agreements in the next few years.

Candidate Conservation agreements have already resulted in the withdrawal of
several proposals to list species.  For instance, the State of Utah and the
Fish and Wildlife Service signed an agreement to protect a fish called the
Virgin spinedace.  The goal of this agreement was to bring back this species
to 80 percent of its habitat.  Based on the efforts of the state, the Virgin
spinedace was removed from the candidate species roll in 1996.

Thanks to the Arizona Willow Conservation Agreement and Strategy and the
efforts of the White Mountain Apache Tribe to reduce the damage caused by
cattle and elk, off-road vehicle use, and timber harvesting in willow
habitat, the Arizona willow was removed from the candidate species roll in

With the CCAA policy, the success of these traditional range-wide CCAAs can
be extended to individual landowners who might otherwise be reluctant to
attract a declining species due to concern about possible restrictions that
might be imposed if
the species is eventually listed.

"Having an endangered or candidate species on your property should be a good
thing, something a landowner can be proud of, not something to avoid," said
Clark.  "With the administrative reforms we have made to the Endangered
Species Act, such as Safe
Harbor agreements, habitat conservation plans, and Candidate Conservation
Agreements with Assurances, ranchers, timber companies, and other landowners
are able to participate in the conservation of at-risk species without the
concern that their future plans may be delayed or halted.

"These reforms are making the Endangered Species Act work better than ever!"
Clark added.  "Now we are working hand in hand with these landowners as
partners in our national goal of protecting our most vulnerable species."

The final "Safe Harbor" and "Candidate Conservation Agreements with
policies were published in the June 17 Federal Register.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency
responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and
their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.  The
Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System
comprised of more than 500 national wildlife refuges,
thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas.  It also
operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fish and wildlife management
assistance offices, and 78 ecological services field stations.  The agency e
nforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act,
manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant
fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and
helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts.  It also oversees
the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in
excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife


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