Safe Harbor Program: Utah prairie dog

Utah Prairie Dog

Utah Prairie Dog photo courtesy Brian Slobe

In September of 2006, a Memorandum of Understanding was developed and signed by USU Cooperative Extension Services, Utah Department of Natural Resources, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Utah Farm Bureau Federation, Natural Resource Conservation Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Environmental Defense Fund, Panoramaland Resource Conservation and Development Council Inc., and Color Country Resource Conservation and Development Council, Inc. This MOU set in motion the terms and conditions of a cooperative effort to work together in promoting the recovery effort with the Utah prairie dog and indicated that one of the most important cooperative functions would be the implementation and establishment of a Safe Harbor Program.

On July 1, 2009 Panaoramaland RC&D entered into a Programmatic Safe Harbor Agreement for Utah Prairie Dogs with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 


Similar to HCPs, Safe Harbor Agreements (SHAs) are voluntary agreements between non-federal landowners and USFWS. SHAs encourage landowners to create, enhance, or maintain habitat for threatened or endangered species on their property. Prior to the agreement, landowners and agencies establish baseline conditions for the habitat to be capable of supporting the species. The agency provides assurances to the landowners and guarantees that, if the conditions of the SHA are met, the landowners will not be subject to any additional requirements than previously agreed upon. Incidental take by the landowner is authorized as long as the species does not fall below the agreed-upon baseline conditions. Landowners are not bound indefinitely to SHAs and can either renew or let the agreements expire. This allows landowners to freely manage their property, including development, as long as they maintain baseline conditions. As of 2009, USFWS had entered into over 70 SHAs.

A Safe Harbor Agreement (SHA) is a voluntary agreement involving private or other non-Federal property owners whose actions contribute to the recovery of species listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The agreement is between cooperating non-Federal property owners and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).

In exchange for actions that contribute to the recovery of listed species on non-Federal lands, participating property owners receive formal assurances from the FWS that if they fulfill the conditions of the SHA, the FWS will not require any additional or different management activities by the participants without their consent. In addition, at the end of the agreement period, participants may return the enrolled property to the baseline conditions that existed at the beginning of the SHA.

What Farmers And Ranchers Should Know About Praire Dogs (Brochure) (PDF)


A Safe Harbor is a Conservation Incentive, Helping Landowners Help Endangered Species.

Introducing a new concept in endangered species conservation on private land.

What is a Safe Harbor Agreement (SHA)?

What can a landowner do under a safe harbor?

What can a landowner NOT do under a safe harbor?

When is a safe harbor agreement appropriate?

How does a landowner enter into a safe harbor agreement?

Access to the land


What is the duration of a safe harbor agreement?

How is a neighbor’s land affected by a safe harbor agreement?

Changing Circumstances

What happens when the land is sold?

What happens when a landowner dies?

Safe harbor and other incentives programs

What others are saying about safe harbor


U.S. Fish & Wildlife Publication and Video:

Safe Harbor Agreements for Private Landowners

Safe Harbor FACT SHEET

Safe Harbor VIDEO U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service


Article: Building Trust for Prairie Dogs; Large-scale Approach Protects Habitats and Helps Communities

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; Endangered Species Bulletin, Tools for Conservation Partnerships

Western Soundscapes: Prairie Dogs, Jeff Rice (2010-05-26) (audiofile)

USFWS UPD Recovery Plan (Revised)

For information about the Safe Harbor Program, please contact:

Contact: Erica Wightman, 340 North 600 East Richfield, UT 84701 Phone: 435/979-1984 Fax: 888/503-0507


No one knows how the extinction of organisms will affect the other members of its ecosystem, but the removal of a single species can set off a chain reaction affecting many others.  This is especially true for a “keystone” species, whose loss can transform or undermine the ecological processes or fundamentally change the species composition of the wildlife community. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Some information provided on this page was found through Wikipedia,