The Safe Harbor Program

Safe Harbor Sign

Landowners who actively manage habitat for rare species can make significant contributions to conservation. More often, landowners are fearful of restrictions that rare species may create on their property, so they never allow conditions suitable for rare species to develop.

The Safe Harbor Program was developed to help allay these fears and promote conservation of habitat for Red-cockaded Woodpeckers. Landowners who voluntarily enroll in Safe Harbor agree to carry out land-management activities beneficial to woodpeckers. The activities may include burning regularly to reduce hardwoods, installing artificial cavities to provide new nesting and roosting sites, or extending timber rotations to provide good foraging habitat.

In exchange for these improvements, landowners with Safe Harbor Agreements are not required to maintain habitat forever should their management objectives someday change. In other words, the landowner will not be penalized if they voluntarily try to improve habitat for an endangered species.



Safe Harbor in the Red Hills

How might this help Red-cockaded Woodpeckers? One of the Red Hills properties that signed a Safe Harbor Agreement in 2002 allowed artificial cavities to be installed as soon as the agreement was signed. Young woodpeckers from neighboring properties dispersed and quickly colonized the new sites. Over the years, the territory has produced 12 fledglings that dispersed from the property and helped to maintain continuity among other woodpecker territories in the region. At some point, land management objectives for the property may change, but, until then, the property continues to produce new woodpeckers each year and is helping to sustain the larger regional population.

For more information on the Safe Harbor Programs in Florida and Georgia, follow the links below: