Safe Harbor Agreement
In 2006, we became the first landowner to enroll in California’s first regional Safe Harbor Agreement – a voluntary partnership intended to enhance habitat for threatened species in a specific area. The agreement was the Lower Mokelumne River Programmatic Safe Harbor Agreement and, quite simply, if we restored and maintained the dense riparian forests ideal for the Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle along the stretch of the Mokelumne River at the River Ranch, we would be provided certain regulatory assurances so we could continue our farming activities.
The first step we took was specifying the area that we would enroll in the agreement and then we worked with the committee to determine the activities we would take to create healthy native riparian plant communities that included elderberry bushes. We committed to planting native species typical of the canopy, sub-canopy, shrub, and herbaceous layers found in our area, and limit pest management within the restored area, and maintain for the years to come.
So how often do we see Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetles? When we look hard during March-July. The female beetle lays her egg on the outside of the elderberry bush, and when the eggs hatch the larvae bore into the stem, where they feed on pith and develop, which can last up to two years! After pupating, the adults create holes to exit, feed on the elderberry leaves and flowers, mate, and lay eggs.
For us, it just made sense for us to participate, and for the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts and the US Department of Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, this was an opportunity to help the Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle which is a threatened species, and improve the area for a host of other native species including migratory birds, raptors, and several mammals.