News Release

Comment Period Re-Opened for Proposed Sacramento River Habitat Option

Safe Habor Agreement will protect Landowners who helps Imperiled Species

March 8, 2010

Contacts:
Al Donner (916) 414-6566
al_donner@fws.gov

The public comment period has re-opened for a proposed new voluntary landowner efforts to improve rare species habitat along a 222-mile stretch of the Sacramento River.

The draft Safe Harbor Agreement (SHA) between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and the California Department of Fish and Game (Department) on one hand and the Sacramento River Conservation Area Forum (Forum) will be open for additional 30-day comment period, through April 8. During the initial comment period in late December and early January several people asked for more time to comment, leading to today’s notice. Comments submitted earlier do not need to be re-submitted.

The voluntary pact will give landowners along the river the opportunity to gain legal protection from transgressing federal and state Endangered Species Acts (ESA) when they improve native habitat in the course of ranching and farming operations.

Under the draft SHA, seven species could benefit from landowner activities--the federally listed valley elderberry longhorn beetle and giant garter snake, and the state-protected western pond turtle, Swainson’s hawk, bank swallow, willow flycatcher and western yellow-billed cuckoo.

The species would benefit from good land management practices carried out by property owners along the river, such as maintaining good tree cover, planting and protecting elderberries, removing invasive species and avoiding essential habitats during breeding. The activities would be consistent with the landowners’ overall needs. The draft SHA covers the main stem Sacramento River from river mile 80, its Feather River confluence at Verona, upstream to mile 302 at Keswick Dam, just above Redding.

The draft SHA also will enable neighboring landowners to get ESA incidental take protection even if they do not undertake habitat enhancement efforts themselves.

“Voluntary partnerships with farmers and ranchers who know and understand the Sacramento River riparian habitat is an ideal way to help at-risk species,” according to Susan K. Moore, Field Supervisor in the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office. “The Sacramento River Safe Harbor Agreement will be a major step forward in the common effort to recover these important species.”

The Service encourages partnerships such as these because they provide a net benefit to the imperiled species, while protecting landowners who might incidentally harm a species.

Comments on the draft SHA can be submitted through April 8 to: Kathy Brown, Conservation Partnerships Program, 2800 Cottage Way, Room W-2605, Sacramento, California 95825; or fax: (916) 414-6712/6713. For more information call Brown at (916) 414-6600.

The Federal Register notice can be found at:http://www.fws.gov/sacramento/

The Sacramento River Conservation Area Forum is a non-profit organization that helps guide cooperative efforts to protect, restore and enhance the fisheries and riparian habitat along the Sacramento River from Keswick Dam Verona. The Forum works to ensure that habitat restoration and management address not only the dynamics of riparian ecosystems, but also the realities of local agricultural and recreational issues associated with land use along the river.