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Floodplain Buyouts: How Local Governments Can Maximize Community Benefits, Habitat Connectivity, and Resilience

January 2018

Citation: ELR 10060

Author: Rebecca Kihslinger and David Salvesen

Since 1993, FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program has funded the acquisition of over 37,000 flood-damaged properties. On these purchased properties, existing structures must be removed and the land dedicated to open space, recreational, or wetland management uses. Communities can restore and permanently protect these properties to provide natural habitats and help conserve biodiversity, while also providing amenities and improving resilience. Local governments usually oversee these buyouts, and ultimately take on the ownership of the sites with little or no funding for restoration or management, or guidance on maximizing long-term benefits. This Article highlights communities across the country that have established programmatic and management structures for floodplain buyouts to make the most of acquired properties. It offers practical, implementable recommendations on how to optimize use and management of buyout properties to provide habitat and improve community resilience.

Rebecca Kihslinger is a Senior Science and Policy Analyst at the Environmental Law Institute and directs ELI’s Wetlands Program. David Salvesen, Ph.D., is a Research Associate and Director of the Sustainable Triangle Field Site at the University of North Carolina’s Institute for the Environment.

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