FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 11, 2001
The Pebble Hill Foundation is proud to announce that it will sign a Safe Harbor Management Agreement with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GDNR) to protect the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker while maintaining its land management flexibility. The GDNR Safe Harbor program has been modeled after successful programs in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas that include over 156,000 acres owned by 76 landowners to provide and improve habitat for the Red-cockaded Woodpecker.
Pebble Hill becomes the first property in the Red Hills region -- which has the largest population of Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers on private lands in the world--to make such an agreement. Tall Timbers Research Station, a private non-profit ecological research and conservation organization, presently holds an agreement with the Pebble Hill Foundation to manage the 3000-acre plantation. GDNR will be working with Tall Timbers and Pebble Hill to manage the land under this agreement.
"Safe Harbor rewards private landowners for doing good things for the Red-cockaded Woodpecker," said GDNR Wildlife Resources Division Director, David Waller. "Management for the Red-cockaded Woodpecker will also benefit many other species that also require mature pine forests found on these private lands."
Safe Harbor was first introduced in 1995 to provide landowners management flexibility while ensuring a conservation benefi for endangered or threatened species. Safe Harbor is an innovative conservation program designed to ease private landowner fears when an endangered species is found on their property, or if the property has suitable habitat that could be used by an endangered species at some time in the future. Uncertainty of compliance with the federal Endangered Species Act can be unsettling to a landowner who thinks they may have suitable habitat for an endangered species but also may need to manage their property for other objectives in the future.
Under Safe Harbor, the uncertainty is removed. A "baseline" status of the endangered species is established for the property. Population increases above the baseline-even if it is zero to begin with--do not increase the landowner's responsibility. For example, if two woodpecker family groups are present when the baseline is established and the population grows by three family groups over the next decade, the landowner is responsible only for the two family groups, not five, should he or she change land management goals.
"As more landowners learn of the flexibility that Safe Harbor Agreements provide, we are seeing more interest in these type of agreements, " said Sam D. Hamilton, Southeast Regional Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "Red-cockaded Woodpeckers were the genesis for the national Safe Harbor program. Today's announcement signifies a continued commitment to this innovative ecosystem management program."
To make Safe Harbor even more attractive, GDNR has established an incentive program -- through a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service -- to provide financial assistance to landowners who implement beneficial habitat management practices for Red-cockaded Woodpeckers.
Safe Harbor agreements in Georgia are made between a landowner and the GDNR. Although the Pebble Hill Safe Harbor Agreement is only the second such agreement in Georgia, if the trends seen elsewhere are relevant, GDNR expects to enroll many more Georgia properties soon.
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Atlanta, GA 30345
Phone: 404/679-7289 Fax: 404/679-7286