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Floodplains and Wildlife Conservation

This section educates communities about opportunities for reducing flood risk and lowering community flood insurance premiums while enjoying the benefits of naturally functioning floodplains, such as the conservation of habitat essential for threatened and endangered species.

While these pages focus on National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) communities, the tools and resources here apply broadly to land use and community planners, conservation and parks departments, elected officials, planning commission members, non-profits, and conservation organizations. The information, tools and links provided here may assist the above entities in determining ways to incorporate species and habitat conservation into floodplain management strategies and decisions.

National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) Endangered Species Act (ESA) Section 7(a)(1) Conservation Action Program

Over three years, FEMA consulted with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to create the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) Endangered Species Act (ESA) Section 7(a)(1) Conservation Action Program. Section 7(a)(1) of the ESA directs federal agencies to conserve threatened and endangered species and to use their authorities to advance the purpose of the ESA.

In accordance with Section 7(a)(1), FEMA identified ways the NFIP can encourage the conservation of federally listed species and their designated critical habitat and natural floodplain functions. Under this NFIP ESA Section 7(a)(1) Conservation Action Program, the NFIP promotes the conservation of threatened and endangered species and their habitat through three key components:

The three key components of the NFIP ESA Section 7(a)(1) Conservation Action Program are summarized below; additional information can be found in informational fact sheets for the Program and each individual component.

Build Awareness

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FEMA developed web content to build education and awareness of the benefits of conserving threatened and endangered species.

Explore NFIP Floodplains and Wildlife Conservation webpages:

Protect Natural Floodplains

Learn about the benefits of protecting natural floodplain functions.

Reduce Insurance Costs

Discover opportunities and benefits for reducing flood risk and lowering flood insurance premiums while conserving habitat essential for endangered species.

Conserve Endangered Species

Identify benefits to conserving endangered species in the floodplain.

Decide Whether to Develop

Understand the kind of considerations that should be taken into account when a decision has been made to develop in a floodplain.

Help with Identification

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FEMA’s Flood Risk and Endangered Species Habitat (FRESH) web-based mapping tool is an integral part to the NFIP’s ESA Section 7(a)(1) Conservation Action Program. The FRESH mapping tool helps to build awareness, assist with identifying federally listed species and critical habitats and promote incentives or opportunities for NFIP participating communities to further conservation.

FRESH can be used to identify federally listed threatened and endangered species ranges and critical habitats and Special Flood Hazard Areas. FRESH enables users to visualize and analyze community-specific environmental data to conserve habitat and species while balancing social and economic needs.

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The FRESH User’s Guide provides step-by-step instructions on how to use the FRESH mapping tool.

Visit our webpage to learn more about the FRESH tool's development, or download the FRESH fact sheet.

Promote Existing Incentives and Create New Incentives

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FEMA leverages the NFIP’s Community Rating System (CRS) program to encourage and recognize communities for taking actions that both mitigate flood risk and benefit species. Some CRS activities were designed to protect species, such as preserving open space and the natural and beneficial functions of floodplains and creating higher standards for stormwater management.

FEMA analyzed CRS communities in a pilot study to determine which activities are commonly undertaken and why communities choose them.

Based on the findings of this pilot study, FEMA is introducing two new CRS subelements, the Floodplain Species Assessment (FSA) and Floodplain Species Plan (FSP), in the 2021 Addendum to the 2017 CRS Coordinator’s Manual.

The FSA and FSP encourage community officials to:

  • Determine which threatened and endangered species and critical habitat are or may be present in their communities
  • Research conservation and recovery activities for those species where community actions will have the greatest impact
  • Adopt a plan to implement those actions
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Download guidance on the new Floodplain Species Assessment (FSA) and Floodplain Species Plan (FSP) CRS subelements.

Download the fact sheet to learn more about the activities undertaken as part of the CRS community pilot study.

Contact Us

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Please email the NFIP ESA team if you would like more information about the NFIP ESA Section 7(a)(1) Conservation Action Program.

Last updated March 15, 2021