Landowner Safe Harbor for Endangered Species Act Passes Committees

Assembly and Senate policy committees this week gave approval to California Chamber of Commerce-supported bills extending landowner protections in connection with the state endangered species law.

  • AB 202 (Mathis; R-Visalia) protects landowners from additional regulations when undertaking conservation measures to protect endangered species by extending indefinitely the safe harbor for the accidental “take” of an endangered species.
  • SB 62 (Dodd; D-Napa) saves agricultural operations time and resources by extending until 2024 the safe harbor for the accidental “take” of an endangered species during lawful routine and ongoing agricultural activities.

Both bills deal with a section of the California Endangered Species Act that provides farmers and ranchers the ability to produce food and fiber without fear of penalties if they accidentally take a candidate, threatened or endangered species in the normal course of farming or ranching.

In exchange, the farmers and ranchers voluntarily manage their lands in a manner that contributes to the recovery of a listed species. The program has been successful for agriculture and beneficial to various species.

In a letter supporting SB 62, the CalChamber and groups representing the full gamut of agricultural activities pointed out that the safe harbor section of the act provides an incentive for California farmers and ranchers to conduct operations in an environmentally friendly manner by reducing some of the liability associated with providing wildlife habitat on their property.

Many farmers are fearful that if they allow habitat to develop on their property, they will unwittingly attract threatened and endangered species. Moreover, if they accidentally harm a listed species during routine, ongoing agricultural activities, the accidental harm will trigger civil and criminal liability.

The safe harbor section provides landowners with assurance that a pure accidental take will not be the impetus for liability, resulting in a net benefit for wildlife in California.

Continuing the safe harbor section of the act by extending the sunset date will encourage the development of wildlife-friendly farming practices, SB 62 supporters declare.

Key Votes

Both bills passed on March 12 with unanimous bipartisan support:

  • AB 202 passed the Assembly Water Parks and Wildlife Committee, 14-0. It will be considered next by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
  • SB 62 passed the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee with amendments, 8-0. It will be considered next by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

If both bills progress, the sunset provisions will be reconciled.

Staff Contact: Valerie Nera

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