Making conservation and restoration decisions can feel daunting at times. Thankfully there are a lot of high-quality, scalable data sets that can inform and prioritize decision making. Furthermore, there are programs that incentivize targeted conservation actions. When we combine these, we can develop tools that empower stakeholders to engage in adaptive management tailored to meet specific planning needs. At this year’s Land Trust Alliance Rally in Minneapolis, Minnesota, representatives of Digital Coast Partnership member organizations led an integrated training session on the Community Rating System (CRS). CRS is a voluntary program administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) within the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) that encourages more comprehensive floodplain management by offering flood insurance premium reductions to participating communities.
The session titled “Get Some Credits! Conserving Land to Reduce Flood Risk and Save Money” represents one of the many ways that land trusts can engage their surrounding community. By highlighting tools created by the Associated State of Floodplain Managers (ASFPM) and Coastal States Organization (CSO); The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and partners; and NOAA’s Office of Coastal Management; session participants learned how CRS’s Open Space Preservation credits can reduce flood risk while providing tangible benefits to participating communities. When presented together, these complimentary tools showcase the wide range of involvement local governments and land trusts can have in the CRS program. ASFPM and CSO’s CRS Green Guide provides insights as to how to be successful in the program, by showcasing specific success stories from communities across the country. NOAA’s Coastal Flood Exposure Mapper and Green Infrastructure Mapping Guide allow communities to scope eligible land areas and engage with new stakeholders. TNC’s CRS Explorer, piloted with eight communities in North Carolina, shows land parcels that are currently eligible for CRS points as well as land that could potentially provide points if given protected land status.
Although the CRS program offers rewards, the sheer volume of information, data, and maps required to calculate and apply for points can discourage community participation. There is a clear and tangible need for tools that enable increased participation in the CRS program, and integrated trainings address that need. Fortunately, the LTA Rally is the first of many upcoming CRS trainings led by the Digital Coast Partnership. Upcoming CRS trainings include:
- Restore America’s Estuaries, New Orleans, Louisiana, December 10-15, 2016
- Coastal Geo Tools, Charleston, South Carolina, February 6-9, 2017
- ASFPM Annual Conference, Kansas City, Kansas, April 30 – May 5, 2017
- American Planning Association Conference, New York City, New York, May 6-9, 2017
- National Adaptation Forum, St. Paul, Minnesota, May 9-11, 2017
Together, the Digital Coast Partnership is building awareness about CRS while simultaneously showcasing tools to improve program participation and ultimately reduce flood insurance and increase open space preservation across the coastal United States.