What is the Safe Harbor Program?
Florida's Safe Harbor Program for red-cockaded woodpeckers is a
voluntary program that is designed to involve private landowners in
the recovery of the federally endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.
The agreement is authorized between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service (FWS) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission (FWC) under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt introduced the concept of
the Safe Harbor program in 1995. Prior to that time, many
landowners were hesitant to protect or enhance endangered species
habitat, due to concerns that they might attract endangered species
and then be subject to legal restrictions under the Endangered
How does the Safe Harbor Program work?
By entering Florida's red-cockaded woodpecker Safe Harbor Program,
landowners agree to engage in conservation activities that could
further the recovery of red-cockaded woodpeckers. The Safe Harbor
Program provides assurances that no additional regulatory
restrictions will result if the landowner is able to increase
woodpecker populations on their property.
How will the red-cockaded woodpecker benefit from Safe
The red-cockaded woodpecker is dependant upon open stands of
mature pine. By encouraging land management by private landowners
that benefits the red-cockaded woodpecker, the bird will benefit
from having increased suitable habitat.
Why is this agreement important?
One of the main reasons for the red-cockaded woodpecker's decline
is loss of habitat. Over half of all endangered species reside on
private lands. In Florida, private lands provide habitat for as
much as 10 percent of the red-cockaded woodpecker population. By
engaging private landowners in activities that will benefit the
RCW, more habitat is created to help existing populations. For
landowners, the program provides assurances that no additional
regulatory restrictions will result if the landowners are able to
increase woodpecker populations on their property.
Who is eligible to participate in the Safe Harbor
Any private landowner in Florida who has land that does or could
support red-cockaded woodpeckers.
What are the necessary steps a landowner needs to take to
become a part of the Safe Harbor Program in Florida?
To become a part of the Safe Harbor Program in Florida, a
landowner must contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission (FWC). In order to enroll property in the program, the
landowner will need to know the red-cockaded woodpecker baseline of
his property and be willing to agree to implement management
activities that could benefit the species. Once the landowner
submits a Safe Harbor Management Agreement, the FWC will verify the
baseline conditions, and then issue the landowner a "Certificate of
Inclusion" which will include the property in the program.
How are participating landowners assured that the program
will protect their interests?
Once enrolled in the program, a landowner is given a "Certificate
of Inclusion" which is a legal document that assures the
What is a baseline?
The number of red-cockaded woodpecker groups that are present at
the beginning of a landowner's agreement is called a baseline. If
there are no groups or foraging-habitat present the base line is
zero. Landowners are only responsible for the number of
red-cockaded woodpecker groups that are determined at the beginning
of their agreement.
How long are Safe Harbor Agreements valid?
Safe Harbor Agreements can extend for any length of time up to 99
years from 2006. Long agreements are encouraged.
What happens if a landowner decides not to participate in
the Safe Harbor Program anymore?
Agreements may be canceled with a 60-day notice, at which time the
landowner no longer receives the assurances of the Safe Harbor
If a landowner cancels his agreement, what happens to the
residing red-cockaded bird population?
If a Safe Harbor Agreement is cancelled, the landowner has the
same Endangered Species Act requirements as any other landowner not
in the Safe Harbor Program.
What does a landowner need to do to manage his land for
Beneficial land management for red-cockaded woodpeckers includes
conducting recurring prescribed burns, lengthening pine timber
rotations, thinning and maintaining pine stands and controlling
mid-story and over-story hardwoods.
What happens if a landowner decides to sell his
If the landowner decides to sell his land, a Safe Harbor Agreement
may be transferred to the new owner or cancelled. Having a Safe
Harbor Agreement in no way limits a landowner's right to sell his
What happens to the red-cockaded woodpecker population if
the new owner does not wish to participate in the Safe Harbor
The new landowner then has the same Endangered Species Act
requirements of any landowner not in the Safe Harbor Program.