Because many California Endangered Species Act (CESA) listed species occur primarily or exclusively on privately owned property, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) believes it is critical to species’ recovery to collaborate with private landowners (i.e., individuals, municipalities, timberland owners, and other non-state and non-federal entities) to conserve, protect, restore, and enhance listed species and their habitats.
Private landowners are often willing participants in efforts to recover listed species; however, some may be reluctant to support or attract listed species on their properties, due to concern about land use restrictions that may occur if listed species colonize on their property or subsequently increase in numbers as a result of land management.
Fish and Game Code sections 2089.2-2089.26 allow CDFW to authorize incidental take of a species listed as endangered, threatened, candidate, or a rare plant, through a Safe Harbor Agreement (SHA) if implementation of the agreement is reasonably expected to provide a net conservation benefit to the species, among other provisions. SHAs are intended to encourage landowners to voluntarily manage their lands to benefit CESA-listed species without subjecting those landowners to additional regulatory restrictions as a result of their conservation efforts. In addition, at the end of the agreement period, participants may return the enrolled property to the baseline conditions that existed at the beginning of the SHA.
California SHAs are analogous to the federal safe harbor agreement program and CDFW has the authority to issue a consistency determination based on a federal safe harbor agreement.