In the field of endangered species management, the term Safe Harbor refers to agreements with the US Fish and Wildlife Service by which a landowner voluntarily improves or expands habitat for a species and, sometime later, can decide to return the property to its original condition without penalty. The aim is to encourage otherwise hesitant landowners to help endangered species thrive on their farm or ranch property.
Landowners seldom take such action on their own. Instead, trusted intermediaries bring the parties together. In Yolo County, Audubon California played that role in the early 2000’s, planting native hedgerows and executing associated Safe Harbors on Cottonwood Slough and Union School Slough for the valley elderberry longhorn beetle. The projects are monitored each year to verify compliance with the agreements.
Following a change in emphasis toward larger projects at National Audubon, the California office transferred responsibility for its Safe Harbors to the Sacramento River Forum. The Forum is a nonprofit entity that facilitates natural resource management and habitat restoration along the more rural parts of the Sacramento River, mindful of the interests of local communities and agriculture. The fit was natural, since the Forum has been working in Yolo County already, developing Safe Harbors along the River for the giant garter snake and elderberry longhorn beetle.
The relevance of all this to Yolo Audubon is that habitat for the snake (rice fields and associated wetlands) and the beetle (streamside and floodplain forest and woodland) are crucial habitats for most of the bird species in the Sacramento Valley. Thus, improvement and expansion of those habitats, made possible by Safe Harbor agreements, is good news for the birds of this county.
The Forum is generally based in Red Bluff and Chico, and wanted a more local representative for on-the-ground work. It turned to the Yolo County Resource Conservation District, which has extensive experience working with private landowners on projects to benefit wildlife and agriculture. So now, the Yolo RCD does the leg work for both the signed agreements and the two in development by the Forum.
For more information, visit the website of the Sacramento River Forum, or contact its executive director, Jane Dolan, at firstname.lastname@example.org. The contact person at the Yolo RCD is Jeanette Wrysinski, email@example.com.
Michael Perrone, Conservation Chair, YAS