The Red Cockaded Woodpecker is an endangered species in the United States. The bird is restricted to a particular type of long-leaf pine forest which has contracted to a few patches in the southern states. The disappearance of the preferred habitat for the bird has resulted in a decline in population and its listing under the US Endangered Species Act.
Private landowners have been interested in providing more habitat for the species, but have been deterred from doing so by their responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act. If landowners improve the habitat for the bird and its numbers increase as a result, the landowner incurs the legal obligation to maintain the population of the bird at the higher level. As a result, landowners have been reluctant to improve habitat for the bird and its numbers have remained low, despite considerable conservation sentiment.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service, working with private landowners and listening to their concerns, created a safe harbour exemption for owners who voluntarily created habitat for the species. Under the safe harbour rule, landowners would not increase their legal responsibility for an new birds on their land as a result of habitat improvements.
The result has been a significant rise in the number of breeding pairs of the bird as more and more landowners apply for the safe harbour provision. A major component of the programme success is the cooperation of government agencies with the private sector, which was facilitated when the landowners concerns were incorporated into the measures.