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Landmark water agreement protects salmon and steelhead habitat—and landowners too

March 4, 2016
Young coho salmon

NOAA Fisheries, in partnership with private landowners and the Sonoma County Water Agency, launched a new public-private partnership to conserve and recover protected fish species. The Safe Harbor Agreement offers landowners in the Russian River watershed various incentives for restoring, improving, or maintaining habitat for federally protected fish, such as endangered or threatened salmon and steelhead -- species that are important to the west coast’s economy, ecology, and cultural heritage.

Some of the enhancements landowners can make include planting foliage near streams to cool down water temperatures, and constructing natural areas where fish can rest or hide from predators. Enrollment is voluntary and ensures landowners will not face penalties if they harm fish as they improve habitat.

The species aided by the agreement are threatened California Coastal Chinook salmon, Central California Coast steelhead, and endangered Central California Coast coho salmon. NOAA has also created a 4-part video series on how the California drought affects the state’s fish, habitat, and landowners.