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Sonoma County Grape Growers, North Bay Water District & U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Create Safe Harbor Agreement to Protect California Tiger Salamander 

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SANTA ROSA, CA – July 26, 2022 – Sonoma Alliance for Vineyards and Environment (SAVE) is proud to announce an agreement among the local agricultural community of grape growers with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, North Bay Water District and the Sonoma County Farm Bureau to sustainably manage existing vineyards while enhancing and restoring habitat for the federally endangered Sonoma California tiger salamander in Sonoma County.  

Twenty years ago, the Sonoma California tiger salamander was listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. As a result, conservation requirements for protecting the species were developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and had the potential to affect vineyard operations.  

Now with the Safe Harbor Agreement in place, landowners enrolled in the program and who create or protect salamander habitat will have assurances from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that vineyard activities covered in the agreement can continue without requiring additional ESA-related permits. Participating landowners will implement best management practices that provide a net conservation benefit to the species while protecting the economic values derived from vineyard operations.    

“This groundbreaking agreement among both private landowners and government agencies assures that we can protect this endangered tiger salamander while also assuring that grape growers and vineyard managers can continue to farm in areas where salamander habitat may exist,” says Mike Mulas of the North Bay Water District.  

Public-private partnerships like this are important to conserving listed species as many occur on private lands. 

“The agreement strikes a great balance between conservation and the needs of the local wine industry,” said Michael Fris, field supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office. “We’re looking forward to supporting landowners as they develop breeding ponds for the salamanders, implement best management practices and improve habitat.”

The Sonoma County Farm Bureau will provide information and assistance to grape growers who want to participate in the Safe Harbor Agreement.  To participate, landowners within the habitat footprint for salamander are invited to contact the Sonoma County Farm Bureau to enroll their property.  The Farm Bureau will then work with the landowner to compile information about the land, including a map, the current management, and the management needs of the species and/or habitat. Once this information is compiled and approved, the landowner will implement the new conservation actions and/or continue with existing practices identified in the Safe Harbor Agreement and reports those activities annually to the Farm Bureau.  

“This Safe Harbor Agreement is a perfect example of how conservation practices should be handled among key stakeholders, including private landowners, government agencies and the agricultural community,” says Katie Jackson, second generation proprietor and Senior Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility at Jackson Family Wines. “We are proud to collaborate and work together to develop programs that benefit all of us who care about protecting our shared resources and the long-term viability of grape growing in our region.”  

About Sonoma Alliance for Vineyards and Environment (SAVE)  

Sonoma Alliance for Vineyards and Environment (SAVE) is a group of family farmers and vineyard owners dedicated to advocate for policies that protect the environment and maintain the longevity of farms in Sonoma County for generations to come.  

About North Bay Water District 

The North Bay Water District (NBWD) was formed to secure water for agricultural needs in southern Sonoma County.  Over the years, NBWD has expanded its influence to address critical issues that impact agriculture throughout the County. The NBWD’s long-term goal is to amplify agriculture’s voice as we continue to collectively address existing and future regulatory challenges.

About Sonoma County Farm Bureau 

The Sonoma County Farm Bureau is an organization representing nearly 1,800 family farmers, ranchers, rural landowners and agricultural businesses in Sonoma County. The Farm Bureau is an independent, non-governmental, voluntary, not-for-profit organization promoting and protecting the viability of agriculture. 

About the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.

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