Protecting Florida's Key Deer and Sea Turtles from Development

National Wildlife Federation and our affiliate, Florida Wildlife Federation, have won four ground-breaking Endangered Species Act victories in our 15 year campaign to protect coastal habitats throughout the Florida Keys.

Key Deer v. FEMA

Key deer

National Wildlife Federation's first case, Key Deer v. FEMA, successfully challenged FEMA's administration of flood insurance in endangered species habitat throughout the Florida Keys.

  • In 1994, the U.S. District Court in Miami found that federal flood insurance in the Florida Keys was fueling development in the habitat of the endangered Key deer. The judge ruled that FEMA was required under the Endangered Species Act to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and develop a plan to prevent the flood insurance program from jeopardizing the species.
  • In 1997, FWS found that federal flood insurance was jeopardizing the existence of the Key deer and seven other animals and plants. FEMA and FWS came up with a proposed plan to remedy this problem - FWS would offer technical assistance to landowners.
  • In March 2005, the court ruled that such voluntary measures did nothing to remove the jeopardy caused by flood insurance, because it allowed flood insurance to continue to promote new development in endangered species habitat unabated.
  • In September 2005, NWF won an injunction barring FEMA from issuing flood insurance for new development in the habitats of the eight species until the agencies develops a new plan for protecting the species. The injunction applies to any new structures on undeveloped habitat lands in the Florida Keys. In April 2008, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the lower court rulings.

National Wildlife Federation has worked to protect the Key deer since 1951, when only about 25 of the animals remained.

Today, NWF continues to take action to ensure a safe future for the Key deer and its habitat through the courts and education. Fewer than 1,000 Key deer currently survive, and their future remains precarious.

  • National Wildlife Magazine
    What's Killing the Key Deer?
    From land use to traffic, the deck is being stacked against this endangered species
  • Habitat Saved
    NWF actions are safeguarding taxpayer money by bringing higher standards of ecosystem protection to costly and reckless federal flood-zone construction policies.

Sea Turtles and Floodplain Development

Loggerhead Sea TurtleIn 2009, National Wildlife Federation and Florida Wildlife Federation filed a lawsuit against FEMA for failing to protect endangered sea turtles from the impacts of its National Flood Insurance Program, which promotes development in critical sea turtle habitat.

Ninety percent of all sea turtle nesting in the U.S. takes place on Florida's beaches, including loggerhead, green, hawksbill and leatherbacks.

Coastal development on dunes of eroding beaches can significantly impact sea turtles by interfering with nesting and hatchlings.

"In addition to providing essential wildlife habitat, these coastal areas work as buffers against storm surges up and down the Florida coast," said John Kostyack, NWF's Vice President of Wildlife Conservation. "By allowing houses and business to be built in flood prone areas, the Federal Flood Insurance Program is subsidizing the destruction of sea turtle habitat, putting people at risk and wasting our tax dollars."

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