November 10, 2003

Safe Harbor Agreements and Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances

Key materials
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Stated Purpose:

To "make Safe Harbor Agreements and Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances easier to understand and implement."

Summary of RSP Comment:

The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is proposing to revise its regulations regarding enhancement of survival permits issued under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The revisions make Safe Harbor and Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances (Safe Harbors) easier to understand and implement and they provide better incentives for landowners to use these programs.

In 1995, the FWS promulgated its Safe Harbors Policy because it realized that the ESA provides negative incentives for landowners to conserve species. The presence of an endangered or threatened species on private property reduces the value of the property because it limits the land use activities the owner can engage in. This makes landowners view endangered species as a liability.

Safe Harbor Agreements serve to reduce the liability of endangered and threatened species on landowner’s property by providing guarantees to landowners who work with the FWS that the landowner’s management activities will not result in further regulations. These proposed regulations are an important first step that will enhance the ability of the ESA to protect and enhance populations of threatened and endangered species. However, to make real improvements, the FWS needs to go further and turn endangered and threatened species into assets for landowners, instead of merely limiting the liability landowners face when threatened or endangered species are found on their land.