Safe Harbor Agreements are a new model for endangered species conservation and recovery by engaging the support of landowners who are critical to species recovery, while also providing assurances that they will not face new restrictions on their land because of their good stewardship practices. The assurances create an environment for collaborative conservation, building on local knowledge and innovation to inspire on-the-ground action.
A Safe Harbor Agreement is a tool available under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to help engage private and non-federal landowners in ESA-listed species. Under a Safe Harbor Agreement, participating private and non-federal property landowners voluntarily undertake activities on their property to enhance, restore, or maintain habitat benefiting ESA-listed species).
Safe Harbor Agreements, and the subsequent Enhancement of Survival Permits that are issued, encourage property owners to implement conservation efforts for ESA-listed species by assuring property owners they will not be subjected to increased land use restrictions as a result of their efforts to attract listed species to their property, or increase the numbers or distribution of listed species already on their property.
In 2016, NOAA Fisheries completed its first Safe Harbor Agreement in the country— in northern California's Dry Creek watershed. This partnership among NOAA Fisheries, the U.S. Corps of Engineers, Sonoma County Water Agency, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and private landowners in the Dry Creek Valley supports the recovery of endangered coho salmon, and threatened Chinook salmon and steelhead.