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The Mountain-Prairie Region


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

June 18, 1999
Cindy Hoffman 202-208-5634


To encourage voluntary conservation efforts by property owners, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service have published joint final policies for "Safe Harbor" and "Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances" under the Endangered Species Act.

"The majority of endangered and threatened species occur on privately owned lands," said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Jamie Rappaport Clark. "Working with these landowners is critical to the recovery of many of our most vulnerable species."

The "Safe Harbor" policy provides incentives for private and other non-Federal property owners to restore, enhance, or maintain habitats for listed species. Under the policy, the agencies provide participating landowners with technical assistance and assurances that additional land, water, and/or natural resource use restrictions will not be imposed as a result of voluntary conservation actions that benefit or attract listed species. At the end of a "Safe Harbor" agreement, the landowner would be allowed to return the property to its original "baseline" condition.

The agencies also released their final policy on "Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances" (CCAA) for species that are not yet listed as endangered or threatened, but are considered to be in decline and could be listed in the future.

"The goal of this policy is to work with landowners to turn the decline of a species around in order to make listing unnecessary," said Clark.

CCAAs identify actions that the landowner commits to take to conserve declining species. They may include habitat protection; management; or restoration actions such as fencing, stream rehabilitation, controlled burns, or species reintroduction. Landowners who participate in this program will receive assurances from the agencies that no additional conservation measures above and beyond those contained in the CCAA will be required and that no additional land, water, or resource-use restrictions will be imposed upon them should the species become listed in the future.

These policies are part of a package of reforms initiated by this Administration to make the Endangered Species Act more effective in achieving conservation while enhancing its flexibility for private landowners.

"Based on numerous discussions with private landowners and environmental groups, I believe that these policies will encourage landowners to manage their lands to benefit species," said Clark. "Now we can provide assurances that their conservation efforts will not result in additional restrictions."

Currently, there are more than 35 "Safe Harbor" agreements across the Nation encompassing more than one million acres. North Carolina's Sandhills Safe Harbor Agreement was the first of its kind, protecting 5,200 acres of privately owned land for the red-cockaded woodpecker. Others cover endangered shorebirds in Hawaii, threatened butterflies in Oregon, and endangered prairie chickens in Texas. One of the largest of the agreements covering several counties in Texas will support the reintroduction of one of the most endangered falcons in the world, the Aplomado falcon.

Current Safe Harbor agreements cover properties ranging in size from 2.5 acres to 825,000 acres, making them attractive to both small landowners and corporate interests. The Fish and Wildlife Service expects to receive hundreds of requests for Safe Harbor agreements in the next few years.

Candidate Conservation agreements have already resulted in the withdrawal of several proposals to list species. For instance, the State of Utah and the Fish and Wildlife Service signed an agreement to protect a fish called the Virgin spinedace. The goal of this agreement was to bring back this species to 80 percent of its habitat. Based on the efforts of the state, the Virgin spinedace was removed from the candidate species list in 1996.

Thanks to the Arizona Willow Conservation Agreement and Strategy and the efforts of the White Mountain Apache Tribe to reduce the damage caused by cattle and elk, off-road vehicle use, and timber harvesting in willow habitat, the Arizona willow was removed from the candidate species list in 1995.

With the CCAA policy, the success of these traditional range-wide CCAAs can be extended to individual landowners who might otherwise be reluctant to attract a declining species due to concern about possible restrictions that might be imposed if the species is eventually listed.

"Having an endangered or candidate species on your property should be a good thing, something a landowner can be proud of, not something to avoid," said Clark. "With the administrative reforms we have made to the Endangered Species Act, such as Safe Harbor agreements, habitat conservation plans, and Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances, ranchers, timber companies, and other landowners are able to participate in the conservation of at-risk species without the concern that their future plans may be delayed or halted.

"These reforms are making the Endangered Species Act work better than ever!" Clark added. "Now we are working hand in hand with these landowners as partners in our national goal of protecting our most vulnerable species."

The final "Safe Harbor" and "Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances" policies were published in the June 17 Federal Register.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprised of more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fish and wildlife management assistance offices, and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

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