Washington State Safe Harbor


Maintaining the ecosystem in forests is often thought to be at odds with forestry companies and yet, significant forests and important ecosystems are owned by private companies. In the 1990s, the spotted owl was at risk of extinction and put on the Endangered Species list by environmental groups. When Port Blakely bought land adjacent to the Gifford Pinchot National Forest the northern spotted owl was declining at a rate of up to 9% annually. Without intervention, extinction of the species was considered a distinct possibility.

Port Blakely spearheaded conversations across sectors to drive a collaborative approach to conservation efforts, leading to a safe harbor agreement that protects fragile forest ecosystems, and reduces regulatory risk for their business, creating a more sustainable and vibrant forest.



Multi-Sector Approach
Private Sector

Port Blakely commits to a long-term, stable regulatory agreement that exceeds common standards.

Public Sector

US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service better protect the ecosystem by creating long-term conservation agreement with the forestry company.

Social Sector

Improve protections and restore more habitats by working with forestry companies to develop plans that allow all to thrive.

Breaking Down the Process

See the problems differently

The interests of the spotted owls, and the nonprofits and government agencies that want to protect them, can be aligned with forestry company operating needs. How can the forest company help solve this conservation challenge?

Break Siloes

Who has the resources to solve this problem?

Forest companies have extensive knowledge about their land that can assist the regulator and environmentalist in figuring out how to have the biggest impact on endangered species.


How can assets be given new life?

Port Blakely’s unique forest management rotation strategy provided a unique opportunity to repurpose their assets for conservation. Their 60+ year historic rotation age makes them an ideal partner to the government to create buffer zones for owl repopulation for the foreseeable future. The government has its own tools and assets to bring to bear on this problem, including their ability to create a safe harbor agreement.

Engage Self-interest

How do we create sustainable fuel?

All the parties want sustainable forests for generations to come. Creating an agreement based in the self-interest of all parties allows each sector to benefit from the project.


What business model changes create the win?

This agreement, which prevents cutting in protected areas, delineates other eco-friendly practices, and creates long-term regulatory certainty for participants, can create the necessary ecosystem protection for 60 years to help species return. Aligning these assets to address conservation needs produced a win-win for all, including the northern spotted owl.


Learn more about the Safe Harbor Plan.