Alabama Ecological Services Field Office
Southeast Region


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Red-Cockaded Woodpecker
Alabama State-wide Safe Harbor Program

Male on left and female on right. Credit: USFWS

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) has joined the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in developing a state-wide conservation program aimed at helping the red-cockaded woodpecker to survive and to eventually recover. The Safe Harbor Program is designed to encourage RCW conservation on private lands by providing regulatory assurances to private landowners in exchange for a net conservation benefit for the species. Once enrolled in the Safe Harbor program, private landowners can manage their lands without fear of incurring any additional Endangered Species Act restrictions on land use or management.

On November 30, 2006, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued an "Enhancement of Survival" permit to ADCNR to establish the program. The program officially kicked off with a ceremony on March 29, 2007, when Campbell Lanier, III, enrolled as the first particpant in the program. Lanier enrolled Sehoy Plantation and Enon Plantation in Southeastern Alabama.


Landowners often fear the discovery of threatened or endangered species on their land. Some seek ways to manage their land to discourage these species, even if these practices ultimately diminish the species' chance of recovery.

The Safe Harbor Program was developed more than 10 years ago as a means of providing an incentive to landowners. The RCW Safe Harbor Program provides guarantees for landowners who manage their pine forests in a manner beneficial to the red-cockaded woodpecker. If woodpeckers increase on a property enrolled in the program as a result of beneficial management practices, obligations under state and federal endangered species laws are not increased. Landowners retain all property rights, and management flexibility is often increased by enrolling in Safe Harbor.

Eligibility Requirements.Properties enrolled in the RCW Safe Harbor Program must meet one or both of these criteria:

  • Either have current or historic use of the property by red-cockaded woodpeckers
  • The property must have potential red-cockaded woodpecker habitat

Properties must have current suitable or potentially suitable RCW habitat. Lands that can be restored are also eligible

Landowner Requirements. Landowners agree to provide a net conservation benefit through land management practices. Examples of beneficial practices include:

  • Conduct presribed fires on a regular or recurring basis.
  • Increase timber rotations to provide pine trees more than 80 years old for nest cavity excavation.
  • Provide a minimum of 75 acres of suitable foraging and nesting habitat for each territory by maintaining stands of well-spaced, large pines, free of hardwood midstory.
  • Install artificial nesting and roosting cavities.

Government Commitments. In return for management of the property in a manner beneficial to the red-cockaded woodpecker, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources will:

  • Prior to enrolling the property in the program, conduct a survey to determine a baseline number of red-cockaded woodpecker clusters that exist on the property.
  • Agree to only hold the landowner liable for a number equal to the baseline.
  • Upon termination of the enrollment, conservation agencies will have the opportunity to relocate birds which have occupied the property during the term of the agreement.
  • Provide priority for financial assistance, in the form of grants and cost-share programs, to properties enrolled in the Safe Harbor program.
  • Conduct site visits (either by state or federal biologists) with the landowner to provide technical assistance on management practices and to assist with program enrollment.

For more information the RCW Safe Harbor Program in Alabama, contact:

Carrie Threadgill
64 N. Union Street, Suite 584
Montgomery, AL 36130
Phone:  334-242-3864

Mark Sasser
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries
64 North Union Street, Suite 584
Post Office Box 301457
Montgomery, AL 36130
Phone:  (334) 242-3469
Fax:  (334) 242-3032

Eric Spadgenske
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Partners for Fish and Wildlife
Birmingham Sub-office
2100 First Avenue North, Suite 500
Birmingham, AL  35203
Phone: 205-731-0874

For more information about red-cockaded woodpeckers:



Last updated: August 23, 2017