Safe Harbor Agreements

Freedom to Grow

Private sports-hunting properties in Florida and Georgia provide unique opportunities for enhancing populations of several iconic species associated with longleaf pine ecosystems. For example, sports-hunting properties in the Red Hills region support the largest population of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers remaining on private lands as well as scores of additional rare species. The Red Hills woodpecker population consists of over 170 breeding groups and has been instrumental in establishing new woodpecker populations on other private properties.Jim Cox and RCW

Recent changes in the policies governing woodpecker translocations provide a unique opportunity for using the Red Hills population to help expand woodpecker populations on additional private properties. Prior to 2016, private properties with Safe Harbor Agreements had to accept responsibility for any woodpeckers that biologists translocated onto the property. Safe Harbor Agreements typically reduce the liability a property owner has if woodpeckers increase on their property as a result of beneficial management. However, in cases where a property was geographically isolated from a source population of woodpeckers, the landowner could be doing everything possible to encourage woodpecker growth and expansion, but the management was not likely to provide benefits unless the owner also was willing to accept additional responsibilities for translocated woodpeckers.

This policy change opens up new opportunities for increasing woodpecker populations on dozens of private lands in Georgia and Florida with increasing liability. Tall Timbers has had several property owners ask whether woodpeckers might be moved onto their properties after a Safe Harbor Agreement had been signed. The answer has always been yes IF the landowner was willing to accept additional responsibilities. With this change, no additional responsibilities will be encumbered.

Tall Timbers will be working Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission over the coming month to use this opportunity to expand woodpecker populations on other private lands in Georgia and Florida. We first plan to bolster the Red Hills population by increasing populations on several properties that currently are below carrying capacity. After this is completed, we can consider establishing new populations on other private properties that might help to establish new populations outside the Red Hills region.

If you’d like to hear more about the Safe Harbor Program and the possibilities created by this change in policy, contact Jim Cox:; 850-893-4153 ext.223 or Kim Sash:; 850-893-4153, ext. 336.

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