Sunday, January 24, 2010

Safe Harbor Agreements (SHAs) Coming to California First

Safe Harbor Agreements (SHAs) Coming to California First – California Rangeland Conservation Coalition: Safe Harbor Agreement/Voluntary Local Program starts in 2010

By Julie Kay Smithson, property rights researcher, London, Ohio and

The “Safe Harbor Agreement” program is being proposed by the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Game, and should be fully approved by the end of 2009. Information included in this article may be difficult to fathom, but it is taken directly from the information being made available to property owners.

The following is excerpted from the 2-page “Safe Harbor Agreements for Private Landowners” Pamphlet: "The Safe Harbor Program encourages non-Federal landowners to restore, enhance, and maintain habitats for federally-listed species. ... Examples of activities covered under Safe Harbor Agreements include routine ranching and agriculture activities and maintenance of existing transmission lines. ... [Q] Does the Safe Harbor Program provide funding for restoration and enhancement activities? [A] There is no funding associated with Safe Harbor Agreements; however, the FWS can provide information on grant programs for restoration and enhancement activities. ... After the 10-year duration of the Safe Harbor Agreement, the landowner can either renew the agreement, or elect to return the property back to baseline conditions." (2 pages; 273.69 KB)

When implemented, the Safe Harbor Agreement is designed to protect participating landowners if, during routine farming or ranching operations, they accidentally harm approximately twenty species that are currently protected under both the federal and state Endangered Species Acts. The program will cover the "incidental take" (Take that results from, but is not the purpose of, carrying out an otherwise lawful activity. – Glossary for Endangered Species Act terms. (DOI/USFWS) of protected species on private ranchland in four the Northern California counties of Shasta, Tehama, Butte and Glenn.

The California Rangeland Conservation Coalition – which includes the California Farm Bureau Federation and the California Cattlemen's Association, as well as more than 75 other agricultural organizations, environmental groups and state and federal agencies – will offer informational materials and meetings to interested landowners once the proposed program is approved. "In part, the proposed agreement recognizes the value of grazing and other land stewardship practices of California's ranchers as essential for species management," said Noelle Cremers, CFBF natural resources and commodities director, who called the agreement the result of collaboration among agricultural groups, government agencies and environmental organizations.

To bring the state's safe harbor agreement program into closer alignment with federal requirements, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Senate Bill 448 into law on October 11, 2009. "We worked very closely with Defenders of Wildlife (DOW) and helped ensure the state legislation that supports the program works well for farmers and ranchers. Now, with the bill approved, we're able to more easily create programs that provide protections for state or federally listed species, and those listed by both," Cremers said. – 'Safe harbor' plan recognizes benefit of land stewardship, October 21, 2009, California Farm Bureau Federation

Under a Safe Harbor Agreement, participating landowners voluntarily undertake management activities on their property to enhance, restore, or maintain habitat benefiting species listed under the [Endangered Species] Act, Safe Harbor Agreements, and the subsequent enhancement of survival permits that are issued pursuant to Section 10(a)(1)(A) of the [Endangered Species] Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), encourage private and other non-Federal property owners to implement conservation measures for federally listed species by assuring property owners that they will not be subjected to increased land use restrictions as a result of efforts to attract or increase the numbers or distribution of a listed species on their property. Application requirements and issuance criteria for enhancement of survival permits through Safe Harbor Agreements are found in 50 CFR 17.22(c). – U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

This programmatic Safe Harbor Agreement and Voluntary Local Program (Agreement) is entered into between the California Cattlemen’s Association (Program Administrator), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), and the California Department of Fish and Game (Department); hereinafter collectively called the “Parties.” This is a voluntary program that recognizes the unique and important role that private landowners in California can play in helping wildlife valued by the people of the state and of the nation. The purpose of this Agreement is to enable land management activities beneficial to sensitive species to be carried out on non-Federal land while providing protections to participating landowners (Cooperators) from increased regulations resulting from the presence of listed species. (Page 1) Draft Agreement: (70 pages; 1.36 MB)

This Agreement follows the Service’s Safe Harbor Agreement policy (64 FR 32717) and regulations (64 FR 32706), which implement this policy. Upon approval, this Agreement will serve as the basis for the Service to issue an Enhancement of Survival Permit (Permit) under Section 10(a)(1)(A) of the ESA. The Federal Permit authorizes the incidental taking of the Covered Species during habitat restoration activities, as well as activities associated with routine and ongoing agricultural and rangeland management. This Agreement also follows the Department’s Voluntary Local Program (VLP) regulations (California Code of Regulations (CCR), Title 14, § 786), which implements Article 3.5. Incidental Take Associated with Routine and Ongoing Activities § 2086 et. seq. of the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). In cooperation with the Safe Harbor Agreement, this VLP is designed to provide sufficient flexibility to maximize participation and to gain maximum wildlife benefits without compromising the economics of agricultural operations. Additionally, the Federal and State Take authorizations allow Incidental Take of Covered Species (but not *Species of Special Concern) if a Cooperator chooses to return their property to Baseline conditions. Ibid. Page 2

The California Cattlemen’s Association serves as the Program Administrator of the Programmatic Safe Harbor Agreement/Voluntary Local Program and is authorized to enter into both Cooperative Agreements with landowners who enroll land in the program and Neighboring Landowner Agreements with landowners who own land adjacent to or within the immediate vicinity of land enrolled in the program. Ibid. Page 36

"For each Enrolled Property, pre-Agreement conditions (baseline) shall be based upon a survey of the Enrolled Property, not more than 18 months prior to the signing of the Cooperative Agreement, to delineate the locations of all habitats for listed species and **Species of Conservation Concern that will be covered under the Cooperative Agreement. The following Baseline Habitat Worksheets are designed to be used for each potential Enrolled Property for each potential Covered Species and Species of Conservation Concern." Ibid. Page 39

Certificate of Inclusion

This certifies that the property described as follows [DESCRIPTION], owned by [NAME OF COOPERATOR], is included within the scope of the Enhancement of Survival permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on [DATE] (Permit No._____) and the Approval and Take Authorization issued by the California Department of Fish and Game on [DATE] (Take Authorization No. ____), each for a 50-year term, to the California Cattlemen’s Association under the authority of § 10(a)(1)(A) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended, and in accordance with §2086 of CESA, respectively. The Permit and Authorization allow certain activities by participating landowners as part of the Safe Harbor Agreement/Voluntary Local Program to maintain, restore, and enhance habitat for the Covered Species, while providing incidental take coverage for associated habitat enhancement and routine and ongoing ranching and agricultural activities. Pursuant to these authorizations and this Certificate, the holder of this Certificate is authorized to engage in activities on the above described property that may result in the incidental taking of such species, subject only to the terms and conditions of the Safe Harbor Agreement/Voluntary Local Program Programmatic Agreement, the Permit and Authorization, and Cooperative Agreement No. _______ entered into by the California Cattlemen’s Association and [NAME OF COOPERATOR] on [DATE]. Ibid. Page 30

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Contact: Rick Kuyper, 2800 Cottage Way, Room W-2605, Sacramento, California 95825. or 916-414-6600. Fax: 916-414-6712/6713


*Species of Special Concern – A native species whose population is low and limited in distribution or has suffered significant reductions because of habitat loss. – Bureau of Land Management, Chapter 9, Glossary PRB O & G DEIS. (Page 9-16 of 9-18 pages; 87.59 KB)

**Species of Conservation Concern – Species whose persistence or abundance in an area is threatened by development. – Wildlife Friendly Guidelines, Community and Project Planning, Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) February 2009. (Page 38/39 of 43/44 pages; 2.65 MB)

1,390 words.

Article citation: "First published in the January 2010 issue of Progressive Rancher Magazine."

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