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Two men attach a tarp onto a damaged roof.
Information icon Steve Ricks and Jeff Van Vracken, an aquatic ecologist at the Panama City office, lay down a tarp on a National Key Deer Refuge home. Photo by Dan Chapman, USFWS.

Tips for rebuilding

Service not likely to hinder plans

Some property owners facing the daunting task of rebuilding homes or businesses damaged by Hurricane Irma don’t have to worry about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) slowing things down.

People whose property also serves as habitat to endangered or threatened species can rebuild with minimal government delay, according to the Service.

There is but one provision: You must rebuild on the same footprint of the original structure. If you want to rebuild on a larger footprint, you will need to call the Service for a conversation and a permit.

“If you are rebuilding in the same footprint, you don’t need the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Rob Tawes, the chief of environmental review in the Service’s ecological services division. “You just need a good contractor.”

Based in Atlanta, Tawes oversees programs in 10 southeastern states as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. He knows what hurricanes can do to homes and businesses.

He’s also familiar with Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the law protecting hundreds of fish, wildlife and plants. Part of that section addresses rebuilding after property damages.

The short version of that section? “We generally say, ‘Yeah, no problem’ ” to rebuilding plans, said Jerry Ziewitz, an ESA consultation coordinator who works for the Service in Tallahassee, Florida.

When another agency is helping home- or property owners assess damages and begin rebuilding, the Service steps aside, he said.

“We get out of the way of the responding agency,” he said.

The storm, anticipated to make landfall in Florida at 8 a.m. Sunday, will roll across a state with an array of wildlife and plants considered threatened, endangered or at -risk.

Among the threatened species: the American crocodile and the eastern indigo snake. The Cape Sable seaside sparrow is one of species considered endangered. At-risk creatures include the gopher tortoise and alligator snapping turtle.

For more information, visit our emergency consultation page, or learn more about how the Service handles Section 7 consultations.


Mark Davis, Public Affairs Specialist, (404) 679-7291

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. For more information on our work and the people who can make it happen, visit Connect with the Service on Facebook, follow our tweets, watch the YouTube Channel and download photos from Flickr.

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