A Safe Harbor Agreement (SHA) is a formal agreement between the Service and one or more private or non-federal parties whose actions contribute to the recovery of species listed as threatened or endangered. Landowners voluntarily commit to conservation actions that will help stabilize or restore the species with the goal that listing will become unnecessary.
SHAs encourage conservation and recovery actions for species listed under the Endangered Species Act. The goal is that conservation can preclude the need for federal listing as threatened or endangered or can occur before the species status has become so dire that listing is necessary. Although a single property owner's activities may not eliminate the need to list, conservation, if conducted by enough property owners throughout the species' range, can eliminate the need to list.
Benefits to Landowners
SHAs may benefit landowners in several ways. By entering into a SHA, property owners receive assurances that land use restrictions will not be required even if the voluntary actions taken under the agreement attract particular listed species onto enrolled properties or increase the numbers of distribution of those listed species already present on those properties. This permit also authorizes incidental take of species that may result from legal actions undertaken by the landowner.
Currently, the Service has two joint Programmatic SHA/CCAAs. Please visit the links below or contact our office for more information about these programs.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does a SHA benefit the species?
Because threatened and endangered species occur often on privately-owned property, the involment of non-federal landowners in the conservation and recovery of species is crucial.
Central to this approach is that the actions taken under the SHA will provide a net conservation benefit that contributes to the recovery of the covered species. The contribution toward recovery will vary from case to case, and the SHA does not have to provide permanent conservation for the enrolled property. The benefit to the species depends on the nature of the activities to be undertaken, where they are undertaken, and their duration. The finding includes a description of the expected net conservation benefit(s) and how the FWS reached that conclusion.
Examples of conservation benefits include: reduced habitat fragmentation; maintenance, restoration, or enhancement of existing habitats; increases in habitat connectivity; stabilized or increased numbers or distribution; the creation of buffers for protected areas; and opportunities to test and develop new habitat management techniques.
What assurances does the property owner receive?
By entering into a SHA, property owners receive assurances that land use restrictions will not be required even if the voluntary actions taken under the agreement attract particular listed species onto enrolled properties or increase the numbers of distribution of those listed species already present on those properties. The assurances are provided by the Service through an Enhancement of Survival Permit issued to the property owner, under the authority of section 10(a)(1)(A) of the ESA. This permit authorizes incidental take of species that may result from actions undertaken by the landowner under the SHA, which could include returning the property to the baseline conditions at the end of the agreement.
The permit also specifies that the Service will not require any additional or different management activities by participants without their consent.
Who can participate in a SHA?
A SHA will involve the Service, one or more non-Federal property owners, and possibly other cooperators. State fish and wildlife agencies, which have primary jurisdiction over species that are not federally listed, may be a cooperator in any SHA. Other potential cooperators include neighboring property owners, State or local agencies, Tribal governments, or Federal property owners. Only non-Federal property owners may receive regulatory assurances under the Agreement.
Will there be any public notification for a SHA?
As with other permits, the Service is required to publish a notice in the Federal Register when it receives the permit application for the overall SHA. The Service will announce receipt and availability of the application and Agreement and will accept and consider comments from the public before making a final decision on issuance of the permit.
However, there is no public notification when a private landowner signs up for a SHA.
What if I sell my land? Is the SHA transferable?
If a property owner who is party to a SHA transfers ownership of the land included in the SHA, the Service will regard the new owner as having the same rights with respect to the subject land as the original property owner if the new property owner agrees to become part of the original SHA. If the landowner does not renew the agreement, the assurances tied to the Enhancement of Survival Permit expire. The owner then is no longer protected from the “take” prohibitions of the ESA that are allowed under the permit.
Who do I contact to initiate a SHA?
Contact our office to discuss potential cooperative opportunities.