Recently, increased emphasis has been placed on non-structural and nature-based hazard mitigation solutions, including the restoration of wetlands and floodplains, as cost-effective alternatives for flood hazard mitigation that also help achieve conservation goals like maintaining biodiversity. FEMA hazard mitigation grant programs could provide potential funding that could pay for the restoration and protection of critical natural infrastructure and improve outcomes and reduce costs from the next disaster. For example, FEMA’s new Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program will make $500 million dollars available to states, U.S territories, Indian tribal governments, and local communities for pre-disaster mitigation activities. The FY2020 program priorities include incentivizing projects that incorporate nature-based solutions.
Funded mitigation activities, including nature-based projects, must be done in accordance with priorities set out in state, tribal, or local hazard mitigation plans. Some state and local governments identify restoration and protection priorities in their plans. Most state plans recognize habitat loss as a hazard, or at least as a consequence of hazards, but fewer discuss habitat conservation and restoration as a hazard mitigation strategy. If they did so, more opportunities would be created for investments in nature-based solutions. And, while many state hazard mitigation plans reference federal funding for restoration projects, fewer plans include state-level funding or state-directed projects for habitat restoration. Local plans are more directly tied to community needs and goals and thus may provide an important opportunity for integrating conservation and restoration goals.
ELI has worked with partners and communities across the country to identify opportunities to expand the use of conservation, restoration, and natural infrastructure as hazard mitigation strategies and to facilitate collaboration among wetland and wildlife managers and emergency managers, hazard mitigation planners to explore how they might work more closely together to more effectively achieve their objectives.
ELI is reviewing and analyzing state, tribal, and local hazard mitigation plans to identify to what extent they are incorporating conservation and restoration of wetlands and floodplains and green infrastructure as goals or explicit hazard reduction strategies.
- Gulf Coast Hazard Mitigation Plan Review
The goal of this project was to equip advocates for nature-based solutions with information to play an active role in the hazard mitigation planning process by 1) identifying best practices in inclusion of nature-based strategies in local hazard mitigation plans in the Gulf Coast region, and 2) providing a schedule indicating which entities prepare these plans and a timeline for their next update.
Nature-Based Mitigation Goals and Actions in State and Tribal Hazard Mitigation Plans
This study evaluates to what extent state hazard mitigation plans are incorporating nature-based goals and actions, such as the conservation and restoration of wetlands and floodplains and the use of green infrastructure. We identified the range of practices as well as model examples of plan language that could be used by states in future iterations of their plans. We conclude with some observations on the state hazard mitigation plan development process and how planning elements can serve as opportunities to stimulate states and tribes to identify and use nature-based strategies.
Nature-Based Mitigation Goals and Action in Local Mitigation Plans
For this study, we reviewed 103 local plans from eleven states to better understand to what extent they are incorporating nature-based actions. Our review provides a snapshot of the range of practice across local hazard mitigation plans across the country and identifies some example language that could be used by local governments in future plan updates. We conclude with a discussion of next steps for local governments to improve integration of nature-based actions into plans.
- Wetlands, Wildlife Habitat, and Flood Hazards in the Rock River Basin – Summer Webinars
Wisconsin professionals promote collaboration to restore wetlands and floodplains and mitigate flood hazards in the Rock River Basin and beyond
Workshop in the Root River Watershed, Minnesota
A workshop to identify opportunities to protect vital wetland and wildlife habitat and promote resilience to flooding in the Root River Watershed and surrounding region through greater interagency coordination
- Webinar Series: Promoting Collaboration to Restore Wetlands and Floodplains and Mitigate Flood Hazards in the Rock River Basin: A 4-Part Webinar Series for Busy Professionals
This series offers participants the opportunity to explore and pursue new ways to improve the effectiveness of their plans, policies, and proejcts to simultaneously achieve wetland/habitat conservation and flood hazard mitigation goals; opportunities for establishing new collaborations with other disciplines and agencies; and new sources of state and federal funding that could be leveraged for wetland and wildlife habitat conservation and flood hazard mitigation.
- Workshop in the Cedar River Basin, Iowa
The workshop aimed to identify ways to more efficiently and effectively protect wetland and wildlife habitat and strengthen resilience to flooding in the Cedar River Basin.
- Workshop in the Rock River Basin, Wisconsin
The workshop aimed to bring agencies and organizations together to identify where their interests, missions, and projects overlap and to explore how they might work more closely together to more effectively achieve their objectives.
- Combining Habitat Conservation and Natural Hazards - Issues and Opportunities
Priority wetland habitat sites often overlap with hazard-prone floodplains. A recent study highlighted a disconnect between disaster mitigation planning frameworks and wetland conservation goals, and suggested ways to capitalize on the potential of these intersecting interests.
Room for All: Collaboration Between Emergency Management and Wildlife Conservation
The connection between environmental protection and hazards is real, but not always clear. Emergency managers and wildlife conservationists typically operate in separate universes, yet there are reasons why they should collaborate. A recent study conducted by the University of North Carolina and the Environmental Law Institute identified opportunities for wildlife conservation in areas where people and property are at risk from natural hazards. The study considered places where priority habitats - as identified in state wildlife action plans (SWAPs) - overlap with natural hazard zones and highlighted potential points of collaboration among land use planners, hazard mitigation planners, and wildlife habitat managers.
- Cedar River Watershed Survey Results
A survey designed to improve understanding of the main challenges facing the Cedar River Watershed and help identify and prioritize projects to address these challenges.
- Protecting Wetlands and Wildlife Habitat While Reducing Flood Losses: A Guidebook on Interagency Collaboration in the Mississippi River Basin
This guidebook illustrates the opportunities for wetland managers, hazard mitigation planners and other conservation and hazard mitigation professionals to work together to protect wetlands, water quality, and wildlife habitat and strengthen resilience to flooding in the Rock River Basin as well as the entire Upper Mississippi River Basin.