Endangered bird seen on three TX ranches

AUSTIN Environmentalists and landowners hail the endangered black-capped vireo return to three central Texas ranches as further evidence supporting the benefits of Safe Harbor agreements, which provide incentives for private landowners making their property hospitable to endangered species.

The petite, white-bellied, yellow-green and gray song bird with a black cap was spotted this month on each of the Russell, Panther Cave and Quail Ridge ranches. The landowners were as thrilled as the environmentalists.

"We committed to this Safe Harbor project several years ago, and with the recent sightings of the black-capped vireo, it's certainly clear now that endangered species management can be compatible with good ranch management," Kerry Russell, owner of Russell Ranch, said. "Many ranchers may not call themselves conservationists, but I believe our love for the land makes us natural allies with all of those wanting to leave a positive legacy for future generations."

The Safe Harbor concept was developed by Environmental Defense Fund and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to encourage private landowners to restore and maintain habitat for endangered species without fear of incurring additional regulatory restrictions. From the signing of the first Safe Harbor agreement in North Carolina in 1995, nearly three million acres of land have been enrolled in several Safe Harbor agreements, and many more are being drafted or await final approval.

"Participation in Safe Harbor agreements is a win-win situation for Texas landowners and endangered species," David Wolfe, senior scientist with Environmental Defense Fund, said. "These agreements have proven time and again that private landowners can play a major role in the recovery of endangered species without losing their future land management flexibility."

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