Protecting wildlife and habitat on private land

Safe Harbor program gives farmers and ranchers incentives to conserve

Environmental Defense wildlife specialist David Wolfe and rancher Bob Long

Rancher Bob Long and EDF wildlife specialist David Wolfe inspect restored habitat in Texas.

Case study

How can we make in the best interests of a landowner to protect wildlife?

  • 70%of all land in the U.S is privately owned.
  • Problem

    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.

  • Solution

    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.

  • Key players

    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.”

  • Results

    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.

  • Lasting impact

    Safe Harbor paved the way for habitat exchanges, which allow farmers and ranchers to profit from creating or restoring habitat to offset development that may harm a species.

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