South Florida Ecological Services Field Office
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Court Order Ends 22-Year Legal Battle in South Florida National Flood Insurance Case; Stage Set for Enhanced Protection of Imperiled Wildlife in Keys
September 27, 2012


VERO BEACH, Fla. -- After a seven-year-delay, applicants for new residential and commercial developments in the Florida Keys can finally participate in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) following a federal judge’s recent court order.

The case was settled September 13, 2012 when U.S. District Court Judge K. Michael Moore signed the order dissolving the 2005 injunction that enjoined “FEMA from issuing flood insurance for new developments in suitable habitat” as identified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in affected communities in the Keys.

The actions that paved the way to the lifting of the injunction were the submissions of the following items from the affected communities to the Court:

  • Implementing Ordinances;
  • Species Focus Area Maps;
  • Species Assessment Guides;
  • Project Review Procedures; and
  • Project Assessment Forms.

“We’re excited to begin a new chapter for conservation of threatened and endangered species in the Keys,” said Craig Aubrey, Assistant Field Supervisor of the Service’s South Florida Ecological Services Office. “We’re also grateful to the communities and FEMA for their support and cooperation through this process.”

This case started in 1990 when, on behalf of the endangered Key deer, three non-governmental conservation organizations filed suit against the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for not consulting with the Service as specified in the Endangered Species Act of 1973. The lawsuit involved the effects of the NFIP (managed by FEMA) on federally listed threatened and endangered species in the Florida Keys.

In 2005, following several Court remands of the Service's Biological Opinions (BOs), the Court issued an injunction to the issuance of new Federal flood insurance policies for new residences in the Florida Keys. The principle issue was the voluntary compliance with the Service's reasonable and prudent alternatives (RPAs) in each of the BOs. About 50,000 property owners were affected. The Federal Court and the Federal Appeals Court both confirmed that FEMA could require non-voluntary compliance with the Service's RPAs through ordinance adoptions by the affected communities.

The Service's 2010 jeopardy BO provided specific RPAs, that if implemented would preclude jeopardy to four federally listed species and provide incidental take of five other listed species.

Over the last year, all municipalities and Monroe County proposed, approved, and received Florida Department of Community Affairs’ approval of the ordinances to implement the proposed initiatives.

The Service believes that the new review process outlined in the 2010 BO streamlines and simplifies the review process that was in place in the Keys for over 10 years, while strengthening conservation measures to minimize and avoid impacts to federally listed species.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov/verobeach.

 

Last updated: July 23, 2014
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