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Floodplains and Wildlife Conservation

By integrating floodplain management and wildlife conservation, such as the protection of habitat essential for threatened and endangered species, communities participating in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) have the opportunity to reduce flood risk, lower flood insurance premiums, and protect species and their habitat while enjoying the benefits of naturally functioning floodplains. These pages provide resources and tools to support this integration and help participating communities become safer, stronger, and more resilient.

While these pages focus on 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 provided here may assist the above stakeholders 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

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 with development of the NFIP ESA Section 7(a)(1) Conservation Action Program. Established in 2020, 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 NFIP ESA Section 7(a)(1) Conservation Action 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 FRESH can be used to identify federally listed threatened and endangered species ranges and critical habitats and Special Flood Hazard Areas in a given area. Using FRESH, users can 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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To encourage and recognize communities for taking actions that both mitigate flood risk and benefit species, FEMA leverages the NFIP’s Community Rating System (CRS) . Some existing CRS activities were designed to protect species, such as preserving floodplain open space and their natural and beneficial functions and adopting higher standards for stormwater runoff.

In addition, 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 introduced two new CRS subelements in the 2021 Addendum to the 2017 CRS Coordinator’s Manual: conducting a  Floodplain Species Assessment (FSA) and developing a corresponding Floodplain Species Plan (FSP).

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.