Court Upholds Protection for Endangered Key Deer

18-year fight ends in a win for wildlife, setting a precedent that federal agencies must look before they leap when their actions impact endangered species

04-01-2008 // John Kostyack

MIAMI, FL -- A U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today upheld an injunction protecting eight federally listed species and their habitats in the Florida Keys. The court denied an appeal by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) seeking to overturn the 2005 injunction, which prohibits FEMA from issuing flood insurance for new development in the sensitive habitats of the Florida Key deer and seven other threatened and endangered species.

"This is a significant victory for the Florida Key Deer and all of America's endangered species," said John Kostyack, executive director for wildlife conservation and global warming at the National Wildlife Federation. "The court has sent a clear message that our federal government cannot subsidize development in sensitive coastal and floodplain habitats without taking into account the needs of the endangered species that live there. FEMA's effort to place itself outside the reach of the Endangered Species Act, our nation's most important wildlife law, has been soundly rejected."

"Florida is known for our unique and abundant wildlife," said Manley Fuller, president of the Florida Wildlife Federation. "This decision is a big step in assuring this wildlife legacy is passed on to future generations."

This decision is the latest ruling in litigation filed by the National Wildlife Federation, Florida Wildlife Federation and Defenders of Wildlife. The original case, brought against FEMA in 1990, resulted in a 1994 ruling requiring FEMA to enter into Endangered Species Act consultation with the FWS in implementing the national flood insurance program. As a result of that consultation, FWS issued a biological opinion finding that FEMA's flood insurance program within the Florida Keys was jeopardizing the existence of the Key deer and several other endangered species. The agency was then required to put forward reasonable and prudent alternatives to eliminate jeopardy to these species. In 2005, the court ruled that these measures were not adequate in addressing the threats to wildlife and the injunction was put into place.

"It has taken 18 years to achieve this victory for wildlife," said Kostyack. "Looking beyond the Florida Keys, its sets the precedent that our federal agencies must look before they leap when their actions impact endangered species."

"For species like the Key Deer, global warming will bring a new host of threats like more intense storms and rising sea levels," said Kostyack. "We need to begin implementing solutions to ensure a healthy future for both people and wildlife in the face of a changing climate."

The National Wildlife Federation is America's conservation organization inspiring Americans to protect wildlife for our children's future.

John Kostyack (NWF): 202-797-6879,
Manley Fuller (FWF): 850-656-7113,

Related Resources
  • Supporting Document
    Key Deer Protected (pdf)

    Court Upholds Protection for Endangered Key Deer.

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