Group Says FEMA Supports Damaging Sprawl

ALBUQUERQUE (CN) – WildEarth Guardians wants the Federal Emergency Management Administration to rein in new development in New Mexico floodplains. The environmental group claims FEMA encourages irresponsible growth and damages critical habitat by underwriting flood insurance through its National Flood Insurance Program. A recent Government Accountability Office report reached some of the same conclusions.

     WildEarth Guardians claims FEMA is placing New Mexico floodplains at risk, in violation of the Environmental Protection Act. Ninety percent of New Mexico’s vertebrate species depend on the floodplains for habitat, according to the federal complaint.
     In a 2001 lawsuit, WildEarth won injunctive relief requiring FEMA to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on its insurance practices. But WildEarth says FEMA has not complied with that court order.
     The new lawsuit claims that FEMA fails to consider environmental impact, supports far many more insurance plans than needed and uses outdated floodplain maps to make its decisions.
     The latter two concerns were echoed in the recent Government Accountability Office report.
     WildEarth filed a nearly identical lawsuit last week to protect floodplains in Arizona. Both seek injunctive relief to force FEMA to comply with the EPA and consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service before setting policies for new flood insurance plans.
     WildEarth Guardians is represented in both cases by Steven Sugarman of Santa Fe.

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