Red-cockaded woodpeckers inspired the first
Safe Harbor Agreement, launched in 1995. Florida is the seventh
state to offer Safe Harbor Agreements to private landowners. To
date, more than 620,000 acres are enrolled in red-cockaded
woodpecker Safe Harbor Programs, nationally.
Conserving the federally endangered red-cockaded
woodpecker through partnerships with private landowners is the goal
of Florida's Red-Cockaded Woodpecker Safe Harbor Program.
Since 2006, this statewide program has been
authorized through an agreement between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
(FWC) under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). Red-cockaded
woodpeckers are protected under the ESA, meaning landowners have a
legal obligation to protect the birds and their habitat.
Safe Harbor Agreements make sense whenever
landowners are interested in restoring or enhancing habitats that
may benefit this endangered species but are concerned about
incurring additional regulatory restrictions on the use of their
land. It effectively freezes a landowner's ESA responsibilities as
long as the owner agrees to restore, enhance or create habitat that
benefits red-cockaded woodpeckers.
The Safe Harbor Program has many benefits to
landowners, but the primary incentive is the certainty they gain
regarding future land use. Property owners can maintain, restore or
enhance red-cockaded woodpecker habitat, with the assurance that
additional birds will not result in more land use restrictions. The
program is voluntary and a landowner can withdraw from it at any