Safe Harbor program gives farmers and ranchers incentives to conserve
Rancher Bob Long and EDF wildlife specialist David Wolfe inspect restored habitat in Texas.
A flexible, private-public solution provides a new way to ensure habitat for endangered wildlife.
70%of all land in the U.S is privately owned.
In the early 2000s, native habitat in Central Texas was dwindling while development was booming. To avoid federal regulations that protect species, landowners sometimes destroyed valuable habitat for wildlife, putting songbirds such as the black-capped vireo at risk of disappearing.
We designed Safe Harbor, a program that lets landowners receive incentives from the government to protect rare species on their land, while avoiding new restrictions on how they use their land.
Farmers and ranchers were important allies. “Many ranchers may not call themselves conservationists,” says Kerry Russell, a Texas rancher and Safe Harbor participant. “But I believe our love for the land makes us natural allies with those wanting to leave a positive legacy for future generations.”
State and federal fish and wildlife departments now commonly use Safe Harbor as an incentive for protecting important habitat. Thousands of acres in Texas have been restored. And nationwide, the owners of some 4 million acres have provided safe harbor to 63 rare species.
Safe Harbor inspired us to create Habitat Exchange. It allows farmers and ranchers to profit from the creation or restoration of habitat to offset development that may harm a species.