Tools for Partners and Landowners
Safe Harbor Agreements
The SHA program was developed to encourage the voluntary participation of non-Federal landowners in the conservation and recovery of T/E species on non-Federal lands. Without this participation, it is unlikely that many T/E species, some of which exist only or primarily on non-Federal lands, will be recovered. A SHA is developed by the non-Federal landowner and the Service and may include third party participants, such as state or local agencies. The agreement concisely describes the property to be covered by the agreement, identifies the species that are the recipients of the conservation benefits, sets a “baseline” for those species (how many, if any, are already present prior any conservation actions), the conservation actions that will be provided, any activities that may result in incidental take of the species, and the responsibilities of the all the participants. The intent of the SHA and the criterion that acts as the standard for this type of agreement is the provision of a net conservation benefit to the T/E species for which it has been developed.
When the agreement is approved by the Service, it is signed by all participating parties, and the Service issues an “Enhancement of Survival” Permit to the non-Federal landowner. This Enhancement of Survival Permit is only issued for take that results from actions where a net conservation benefit for the species/habitat is the intent; it should not be confused with an Incidental Take Permit where take of the species/habitat as a result of a proposed land use action is the intent (HCP).
“Assurances” to the landowner accompany the issuance of the permit. The enhancement of survival permit also authorizes the landowner to, after all conservation measures described in the SHA have been implemented, return the property to the condition it was in prior to the agreement, which may also result in take of the species or habitat. Another additional benefit of this permit to the landowner is that it limits his/her responsibilities to those specified in the agreement and the permit, so that even if it was determined that the species would further benefit from an increase in conservation, the landowner could not be held responsible for those increased measures or expense.
Conservation actions are likely to result in the increase in either T/E species or in their habitat, and the likelihood that take of these species will occur due to day-to-day management of the property is also increased. To offset this risk of take, the Enhancement of Survival Permit also protects the landowner from this increased risk by authorizing limited take of individuals or habitat above the established baseline. As a safeguard against take of the species, all SHAs contain the requirement that the Service be given 60 days notice prior to an action that may result in take, thus allowing the Service or other qualified entity an opportunity to either remove the species from potential harm or perform other such prevention.
For more information: