The following species are eligible for Safe Harbor Agreements:
- Endangered, threatened or candidate species listed under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA)
- Declining or vulnerable species as defined in Fish and Game Code section 2089.4, including those proposed for listing under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) or those that CDFW determines may, in the near future, be candidate species or proposed for listing under CESA (e.g., Species of Special Concern)
Take of Fully Protected species cannot be authorized under a Safe Harbor Agreement.
To find out if a covered species is in your area visit the California Natural Diversity Database (CNDDB) page, the BIOS mapping service, or consult with the nearest CDFW Regional Office.
The landowner applies for a SHA and works with CDFW to develop and implement management actions that will provide a net conservation benefit for the covered species.
The landowner maintains and improves baseline conditions throughout the term of the agreement and implements a monitoring program to evaluate the effectiveness of the actions.
Benefits to the Landowner
The landowner receives regulatory authorization for incidental take of covered species that may occur during management of the property enrolled in the SHA.
The landowner may alter or modify their property, even if it results in incidental take of covered species, so long as the baseline conditions are maintained.
If the Covered Species are defined as declining or vulnerable and later become listed as threatened, endangered, or candidate species under CESA, no further authorization or approval is required for incidental take of the species.
Benefits to the Species
The net conservation benefits provided by the SHA result in increased species populations and new or enhanced habitats. The Safe Harbor Agreement Program's collaborative stewardship approach helps ensure the preservation and recovery of California's biodiversity.
This section provides additional context and considerations for the Safe Harbor Agreement program. For more information, see Fish and Game Code section 2089.2-2089.25.
Funding – The funding assurance requirement for SHAs differs from that of Incidental Take Permits (Fish and Game Code section 2081(b)). For SHAs, CDFW is required to determine that sufficient funding is ensured for determining baseline conditions, monitoring, and carrying out management actions for the duration of the agreement.
Proprietary Information – Information received by CDFW and clearly marked as proprietary information is not public information. CDFW shall not release or disclose the proprietary information to any person, including any federal, state, or local governmental agency, outside of CDFW.
Public Information – Information that has been transformed into a statistical or aggregate form without identifying any individual owner, operator, or producer, or the specific location from which the information was gathered.
Access To Enrolled Lands – CDFW shall provide notice to the landowner at least seven days prior to accessing the land or water for any activity related to the agreement. The notice shall identify each person selected by CDFW, its contractors, or agents to access the land or water. A SHA does not provide the public a right of entry onto the enrolled land or water.
Selling Enrolled Lands – If a landowner seeks to sell, transfer, or otherwise alienate the land or water enrolled in the agreement during the term of the agreement, the person or entity assuming that interest in the property shall (a) assume the existing landowner’s duties under the agreement, (b) enter into a new agreement with CDFW, or (c) withdraw from an existing agreement under the terms provided in the agreement, as approved by CDFW.
Landowner Liability – Notwithstanding any other law, the landowner shall not be liable for any injury, and does not owe a duty of care, to CDFW, its contractors, or agents resulting from any act or omission described in a SHA.
Timeline – While there are no regulatory timelines for completing a Safe Harbor Agreement, the process could take as little as 3-5 months. Factors that may extend processing timelines include CDFW staff availability, complexity in project scope, the mechanism and timing of funding, covered species’ ecology, or CDFW’s role as CEQA lead agency.
CEQA Compliance - Issuance of a SHA constitutes a discretionary project within the meaning of the Public Resources Code, section 21065 subdivision (c); therefore requiring compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Thus, an environmental document must be prepared to analyze the impacts of activities included in the SHA unless the activities qualify for a CEQA exemption.
Neighboring Landowners - A landowner who owns land that abuts a property enrolled in a SHA shall not be required, for purposes of an incidental take permit, to undertake the management activities set forth in the SHA, if all of the following conditions are met:
- The neighboring landowner allows CDFW to determine baseline conditions on the property.
- The neighboring landowner agrees to maintain the baseline conditions for the duration specified in the SHA.
- CDFW determines that allowing the neighboring landowner to receive an incidental take permit for the abutting property does not undermine the net conservation benefit determination made by CDFW in the approval of the SHA.
Notification Requirements - The landowner must provide 60 days' notice to CDFW when they anticipate that incidental take may occur, if they intend to return to baseline at the end of the agreement, or if they plan to transfer or alienate their interest in the land or water.
Amendments - Agreements can be amended at any time with the mutual consent of the landowner and CDFW.
Federal Safe Harbor Agreements
The California Safe Harbor Agreement Program is comparable to the federal Safe Harbor Agreement Program. This allows for the development of joint state/federal Safe Harbor Agreements to cover species that are both state and federally-listed.
If a landowner has a federal Safe Harbor Agreement authorizing take for a dually listed species, they may request that the Director of CDFW find the federal SHA consistent with California State Safe Harbor Agreement Program Act. If it is found to be consistent, a SHA consistency determination (CD) (Fish & G. Code, §§ 2089.22 & 2080.1) is issued and no further authorization or approval is necessary under CESA.
SHA Consistency Determination Request Procedures
To initiate the SHA Consistency Determination process, an applicant must notify the Director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife that they have received a federal Safe Harbor Agreement pursuant to the federal Endangered Species Act. The notice must include a copy of the federal Safe Harbor Agreement. There is no fee for SHA Consistency Determination requests.
Electronic copies (i.e., PDFs) of the required documents may be submitted to CDFW through the EPIMS Document Repository. For more information visit the EPIMS web page and follow the given instructions.
Alternatively, paper copies of the required documents can be submitted to:
California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Attn: Director’s Office
P.O. Box 944209
Sacramento, CA 94244-2090