FEMA’s NFIP Community Rating System (CRS) recognizes and encourages community floodplain management activities that exceed the minimum NFIP standards. FEMA developed this program in recognition that communities implementing voluntary higher regulatory standards and other activities that exceed the minimum criteria, will have better overall floodplain management programs and fewer flood losses. Through the CRS, communities receive ‘credits’ for such activities. In exchange for these credits, FEMA offers discounted flood insurance premiums to community policyholders. . Depending upon the level of participation in CRS, flood insurance premiums for community policyholders can be reduced up to 45%.
Aside from the benefit of reduced insurance rates, CRS floodplain management activities enhance public safety, reduce damage to property and public infrastructure, avoid economic disruption and losses, reduce human suffering, and protect the environment. The section below highlights areas where the CRS specifically recognizes and rewards communities for protecting natural floodplain functions, thereby protecting or restoring wildlife habitat, some of which may be home to threatened and endangered species.
Connecting CRS and Habitat Conservation
The CRS was created to encourage flood loss prevention and reduction activities in communities. Those goals are also advanced by promoting natural floodplain functions. As a result, the CRS recently expanded its credits to include floodplain activities that protect the natural floodplain functions. The CRS’s system of credit points now recognizes the tremendous value of protecting the natural areas that border the nation’s rivers, lakes, and oceans. FEMA recognizes that protecting natural functions also helps prevent and reduce flood losses.
The CRS Credit for Habitat Protection guidebook is designed for local officials and others who work with the NFIP and apply its floodplain construction standards, but may not be familiar with the CRS and its benefits or with the ESA and its requirements. The guidebook reviews the many good floodplain management practices that can protect habitat and help reduce and prevent flood damage.
The Community Rating System Works to Protect Natural Floodplains fact sheet is a summary handout for the public and decision makers on how a community can receive credit for protecting natural floodplain functions through CRS. Please note: communities in the CRS should also review the 2021 Addendum to the 2017 CRS Coordinator’s Manual for more detail on the steps needed to apply for these new credits.
The 2021 Addendum to the CRS Coordinator’s Manual includes two new credits that encourage communities to learn more about the threatened and endangered species with range or critical habitat in the community and to identify ways the community can help those species recover. “Preparing A Floodplain Species Assessment and A Floodplain Species Plan for Credit under the Community Rating System,” provides a step-by-step approach to identifying locally relevant threatened and endangered species and developing a plan to help them.
In addition, several tools have been developed specifically to help communities explore preserving open space within their jurisdictions and identify potential CRS credits related to that space:
- The National Ocean Service’s Office of Coastal Management NOAA Mapping CRS Open Space tutorial provides a step-by-step approach for earning Open Space Preservation Credits (CRS Activity 420) in areas that are already protected, and identifying places where additional credit could be earned through future preservation efforts. It also provides templates and worksheets to compile verification information. Combined with the GeoPlatform tool above, communities can identify open space that also serves as or could serve as habitat for threatened and endangered species.
- The Nature Conservancy has developed the Nature Conservancy CRS Explorer tool through which it works directly with interested communities to conduct an analysis of their existing open space and develop options for its long-term habitat preservation. Combined with FEMA’s GeoPlatform tool above, communities can identify open space that also serves as or could serve as habitat for threatened and endangered species. Note: the CRS Explorer tool is currently available only in a select number of communities. The Nature Conservancy is working to bring the tool to additional communities across the country.
Join the Community Rating System. Communities not in the CRS should contact their state’s ISO/CRS Specialist to learn more about the program and how to join.
Specific CRS Credits That May Be Used to Protect Habitat
1. Public information activities
- Displaying maps of habitat, wetlands, and other natural areas deserving protection [Activity 320 (Map Information Service), Section 322.g]
- Distributing messages about protecting habitat via newsletter articles, direct mailing, signs, brochures, and other outreach projects [Activity 330 (Outreach Projects), Sections 332.a and c]
- Encouraging or requiring real estate agents and/or sellers to disclose both the flood hazard and the presence of protected species on properties offered for sale [Activity 340 (Hazard Disclosure), Sections 342.b and d]
- Providing the public library with references on protecting listed species and their habitats [Activity 350 (Flood Protection Information), Sections 352.a and b]
- Including information and links to sites with maps and information on listed species, and other natural resources on the community’s website [Activity 350 (Flood Protection Information), Section 352.c]
2. Mapping and regulation activities (including Open Space Preservation)
- Mapping the regulatory floodplain and/or floodway based on future development conditions or other higher mapping standard [Activity 410 (Flood Hazard Mapping), Sections 412.a and d]
- Mapping and regulating development in species’ habitat [Activity 430 (Higher Regulatory Standards), Section 432.o]
- Incorporating species habitat or range maps into the community’s geographic information system for areas with natural floodplain functions (e.g., wetlands, designated riparian habitat) [Activity 440 (Flood Data Maintenance), Section 442.a(12)]
- Preserving open space in floodplains [Activity 420 (Open Space Preservation), Section 422.a. Also see the NOAA Mapping CRS Open Space tutorial and Nature Conservancy CRS Explorer]
- Preserving floodplain areas that perform natural functions, such as habitat or green infrastructure corridors and beaches [Activity 420 (Open Space Preservation), Sections 422.c and e. Also see the NOAA Mapping CRS Open Space tutorial and Nature Conservancy CRS Explorer]
- Protecting natural shorelines [Activity 420 (Open Space Preservation), Section 422.h]
- Prohibiting fill in the floodplain [Activity 430 (Higher Regulatory Standards), Section 432.a(1)]
- Prohibiting buildings in the floodplain [Activity 430 (Higher Regulatory Standards), Section 432.a(2)]
- Minimizing the number of buildings built in the floodplain through low density zoning [Activity 420 (Open Space Preservation), Section 422.g]
- Prohibiting hazardous materials in the floodplain [Activity 430 (Higher Regulatory Standards), Sections 432.a(3) and g]
- Prohibiting new buildings in coastal erosion-prone areas [Activity 430 (Higher Regulatory Standards), Section 432.n]
- Prohibiting dumping in streams, lakes, and riparian areas [Activity 540 (Drainage System Maintenance), Section 542.d]
- Offering incentives to floodplain developers, such as transfer of development rights, to encourage them to preserve lands that provide natural floodplain functions [Activity 420 (Open Space Preservation), Section 422.f]
- Requiring or encouraging stormwater management practices that mirror natural systems, such as low impact development criteria [Activity 450 (Stormwater Management), Section 452.a(3)]
- Adopting and implementing a watershed management plan that maximizes the use of natural systems, such as wetland storage [Activity 450 (Stormwater Management), Section 452.b]
- Controlling erosion and sedimentation throughout the watershed [Activity 450 (Stormwater Management), Section 452.c]
- Best management practices that protect water quality [Activity 450 (Stormwater Management), Section 452.d]
- Adopting drainage system maintenance procedures that protect natural floodplain functions [Activity 540 (Drainage System Maintenance), Section 542a and e]
3. Restoration activities.
- Adopting and implementing a comprehensive floodplain management plan that includes protection of natural floodplain functions [Activity 510 (Floodplain Management Planning), Section 512.a]
- Adopting and implementing a habitat conservation plan or other site- or species-specific plan [Activity 510 (Floodplain Management Planning), Section 512.c]
- Acquiring flood-prone properties and restoring the areas to their natural state [Activity 520 (Acquisition and Relocation), Section 522]
CRS Community Best Practices Success Stories
Learn how NFIP communities have lowered their insurance premiums and increased their resiliency by achieving a higher CRS Rating through the Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM) CRS success story collection and Success With CRS.
Do you have a best practice or success story to share? FEMA encourages you to send us an email with a submission for Best Practices within your state or community.