Threatened and endangered sea turtles that nest along Florida’s coast are set to benefit from a court approved agreement between conservation organizations and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regarding its National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
According to the settlement, FEMA must consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service under the Endangered Species Act regarding the impacts of the NFIP, which currently subsidizes development in vital sea turtle habitat.
The agreement concludes a federal case brought by National Wildlife Federation and Florida Wildlife Federation challenging FEMA’s practice of issuing federal flood insurance in storm surge areas along the Florida coast. Under the NFIP, FEMA subsidizes insurance for buildings in areas prone to storm surges, providing insurance that is not available on the private market. Making this insurance generally available directly enables the development of Florida’s delicate beaches, which sustain 90 percent of turtle nesting habitat in the United States.
“Subsidizing development in storm surge areas not only destroys habitat, but also puts communities at risk and wastes taxpayer money,” said Manley Fuller, President of the Florida Wildlife Federation.
“This settlement will require FEMA to scrutinize its flood insurance program as it relates to wildlife and maybe even use a bit more common sense before issuing flood insurance in our state.”
“This agreement has a great chance of ensuring that perverse federal insurance subsidies will no longer encourage inappropriate and harmful new construction in important sea turtle habitat,” said Jim Murphy, lead counsel for National Wildlife Federation on the lawsuit. “Yet even this major victory alone is not enough to save sea turtles from the onslaught they face.”