Mondavi Winery Inks 'Safe Harbor' Deal to Protect Rare Species

Mondavi Winery Inks 'Safe Harbor' Deal to Protect Rare Species

Immortalized by Mark Twain's "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," the endangered red-legged frog will be getting a helping hand from one of America's most prominent wine companies. Winery owner Robert Mondavi has finalized a Safe Harbor conservation agreement with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service that will enhance habitat of the famous frog and two rare birds on the company's Cuesta Ridge Vineyard near Paso Robles, Calif.

First developed by Environmental Defense in 1995 to ease the restrictions and regulations often associated with hosting rare and endangered species, Safe Harbor agreements represent a new breed of conservation tool that makes habitat enhancement easier and more attractive for landowners. Environmental Defense assisted Robert Mondavi in crafting and submitting the agreement.. A similar agreement between USF&W and Paramount Farming Company in Bakersfield, Calif., to help the San Joaquin kit fox was approved this spring.

"Not only will this agreement benefit these rare species in California, but having the cooperation of a well-known company like Robert Mondavi will continue to help us show that habitat conservation can be good business," said Michael Bean, chair of the Environmental Defense wildlife program and a leading authority on the Endangered Species Act.

The Robert Mondavi company is the first in its industry to pursue a Safe Harbor agreement. Two other Safe Harbor agreements are in effect in California. This agreement entails riparian restoration along a seasonal stream on the property to benefit the frog and the least Bell's vireo and southwestern willow flycatcher.

"We are committed to making high quality wine using natural farming methods and recognized the role that we could play at Cuesta Ridge in enhancing our natural resources and providing needed habitat," said R. Michael Mondavi, chairman of Robert Mondavi. "Safe Harbor presents a win-win solution for landowners and rare species. Environmental Defense understands that removing bureaucratic obstacles to conservation is critically important to businesses, and their innovative, incentive-based approach is a model landowners can embrace."

Turning farmers and forest landowners from adversaries into allies for conserving rare species is the object of a unique conservation effort by Environmental Defense. As part of its new Center for Conservation Incentives, the organization maintains a virtual library of information about incentives for private conservation now available online. The library includes the most extensive information on Safe Harbor agreements.

Safe Harbor agreements have already been struck with several hundred landowners on more than two million acres of land nationwide. The Safe Harbor concept is responsible for the reintroduction of the Hawaiian goose (the state's official bird) to the island of Molokai, after an absence of more than two centuries, and the return of the northern aplomado falcon, North America's rarest falcon, as a breeding bird in Texas after an absence of several decades.