Habitat preservation agreements are not necessarily as straightforward as financial rewards for good practice, they can include future legal protection against further enforcement of protected species legislation and exemption for the return of habitat areas to other uses.
Habitat preservation agreements offer the potential to improve both our knowledge of where endangered species occur and our ability to conserve them by enlisting the willing cooperation of private landowners.
Habitat preservation agreements can include creating, restoring, or enhancing habitat, managing habitat so as to replicate the effects of natural disturbance regimes that no longer operate effectively, extending forest rotation cycles, reintroducing an endangered species into an area from which it has been extirpated, and controlling exotics or other competing or predatory species.
In the United States, Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs), are used when landowners seek immediate authority to harm an endangered species (usually by destroying its habitat) and propose to mitigate that harm through conservation actions that may or may not leave the species as well off as it was before. HCPs are only required to cause no further jeopardy, while mitigating impacts to the maximum extent practicable.
In the United States, "safe harbor agreements" are agreements between a non-federal landowner and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) or National Marine Fisheries Service in which the landowner agrees to restore or enhance the habitat of an endangered or threatened species and FWS agrees that it will not impose added restrictions on the landowner as a result of the species being attracted to, or increasing in, the area where the restoration was done. In safe harbor agreements, landowners have no immediate intention to do anything harmful to an endangered species or its habitat, but while the intention is to make a positive contribution, the land owner reserves the right to change their minds in the future and to undo the improvements they have implemented if they so wish. The important concept behind safe harbor agreements is that the current situation for an endangered species gets no worse.
Few landowners will voluntarily undertake habitat preservation agreements if they understand that a likely consequence of doing so will be to encumber their property with restrictions that would not otherwise exist.