Breakthrough agreement to protect San Joaquin kit fox

provided by Environmental Defense

n agreement to protect the San Joaquin kit fox in California moved an important step closer to completion on the third of this month, with publication in the Federal Register of a proposed Safe Harbor agreement to help protect the endangered fox. Environmental Defense helped develop the Safe Harbor plan, the first of its kind in California.

    Safe Harbor agreements are a new conservation tool that allows landowners to create or improve habitat for endangered species on their land without fear of new restrictions. Such agreements have been struck with several hundred landowners on approximately 2 million acres of land in other states. Paramount Farming Company, the landowner proposing to help protect the kit fox, is the first major agricultural grower to seek a Safe Harbor agreement.

    “Paramount Farming Company is to be strongly commended for being the first to embrace this new conservation tool in California,“ said Michael Bean, chair of the Environmental Defense Wildlife program and a leading authority on the Endangered Species Act.

    Small populations of kit foxes live on grassland to the east and west of Paramount's agricultural fields in Kern County. The foxes are highly vulnerable to coyotes. Under the agreement, Paramount will allow a series of artificial “escape dens” to be installed across a portion of its land. The entrances to these artificial dens are large enough to allow the kit foxes to enter but small enough to keep the coyotes out.

    The agreement aims to reduce kit fox mortality and increase the fox's ability to traverse the farm fields safely. The artificial dens were installed late last year in anticipation of eventual approval of the agreement and will be uncapped and made available to kit foxes as soon as the agreement receives final approval. The Federal Register notice can be found at online.

    “Safe Harbor is one of the few endangered species conservation strategies that has been praised by environmental groups, as well as the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, and the Western Governors' Association,” said Bean.

    Environmental Defense, a leading national nonprofit organization based in New York, represents more than 300,000 members. Since 1967, they have linked science, economics, and law to create innovative, equitable, and cost-effective solutions to the most urgent environmental problems.