The City of Key West, Florida

The Southernmost City in the Continental United States


Species Focus Area Assessment (FEMA List)


During 1990, environmental advocates filed suit in federal court against FEMA, claiming that agency was aiding the destruction of habitat used by certain endangered plant and animal species.  The contention was that by issuing flood insurance policies in these areas, property owners needing mortgages could develop these lands; something that couldn't otherwise occur if flood insurance wasn't available. 

During the 22 years this case proceeded through the court, the parties agreed upon an interim list identifying such properties.  This became known as "The FEMA List," and may have restricted development of those lots pending outcome of the legal case. 

That FEMA List existed until 2012, when the court case was resolved with a Settlement Agreement - without input from the local communities.  In place of the FEMA List, localized lists of properties where such habitat might exist were created, known as Species Focus Area Maps.

The lists generated from these maps were created by FEMA, the litigants and the federal court; local government agencies were prohibited from any involvement with the development of these lists and the properties identified. 

City staff vigorously objected to these new Species Focus Area Maps (SFAMs), decrying a lack of scientific basis accompanied by a absence of any ground observations. Nevertheless, FEMA mandated all Monroe County jurisdictions adopt these maps as development guides or face expulsion from the National Flood Insurance Program.

During 2012, the City reluctantly adopted local ordinance Section 110-467: FEMA and Wildlife Service Endangered Species Requirements.  Properties on the associated species maps would now require an endangered species review prior to the issuance of any building permits.  Some 1,200 properties were so identified.

In Key West, these endangered species are the: Eastern Indigo Snake, Stock Island Tree Snail and Keys Tree Cactus.

Recognizing that most of these properties had been inappropriately identified, the City hired a wildlife biologist to tour the affected properties accompanied by a representative from the US Wildlife Service.  

As a result, most of these parcels were validated as not having any such habitat and removed from the list.

Check the List:

Those properties remaining on the list can be viewed by clicking on one of the following:

List by property RE#

List by property AK#

Map of Species Focus Areas

It's possible a site has been so identified, and doesn't show on the above lists. FEMA provided a map that can be viewed using Google Earth.  If a site is shown on these maps as having habitat for any of the three identified species, then the property these provisions apply.

Species Focus Area Maps:

Map of Species Focus Area - Current Status

To view the original map, download the Google Earth species data file here, then open this file in the Download Google Earth program

Keep in mind, that these original maps were made before the City investigated and removed a number of properties that were originally covered. Best to check a site on the List by Property, and then check the map to see which of the three species are listed for that property. 

CAUTION:  These lists and maps are only relevant to properties within the Key West city limits. Other areas of Monroe County have additional identified species habitat areas. 

A property in Key West could be identified as having any one or all three of these species.

Original Eastern Indigo Snake Map

Original Stock Island Tree Snail Map

Original Keys Tree Cactus Map

What If My Property Is On The List?

First, upon receiving a Building Permit or Development Application, the City's FEMA Coordinator will check the list to determine how many of the three endangered species habitat are believed on this property.

If you need to repair or replace something already developed (A/C units, resurfacing pools/tennis courts, driveways, existing buildings etc.) the City's FEMA Coordinator will most likely complete a Species Focus Area Assessment form, acknowledging this work isn't likely to have an affect upon the habitat of concern.  You likely won't even be aware this is being done.

Work on undeveloped land may require a site visit so staff can document the presence or lack of any of the three endangered species.

In some instances, permit holders may be required to post Endangered Species Protective Measures information/instructions (see links below).  This notice is designed to warn workers what these species look like and what should be done - or more importantly, not done - if encountered.

If any of these endangered species are found on the site, City staff may be required to refer the matter to the U.S. Wildlife Service before the permit may be issued. The USWS may impose certain restrictions or deem none necessary. 

Species Focus Area Assessment Forms & Protective Measures:

Stock Island Tree Snail - Species Focus Area Assessment Form & Protective Measures

Eastern Indigo Snake - Species Focus Area Assessment Form & Protective Measures

Keys Tree Cactus - Species Focus Area Assessment Form & Protective Measures

Written Procedures for Floodplain Development Review

Map of Species Focus Areas - Current Status

Un-permitted/Improper Work 

Anyone performing unpermitted work on one of these properties, or exceeding the scope of work that was permitted, may literally be creating a Federal Case for themselves and the property owner.  It will be a miserable and expensive experience, likely taking one or two years to resolve - please don't do it. 

Construction on such properties without a permit or without a Species Focus Area Assessment having been performed, is a misdemeanor level crime at the state level, with potential federal consequences with criminal - and likely severe - civil penalties/fines.

Contact Us

Scott Fraser,
FEMA Coordinator/Floodplain Administrator
Building Department
1300 White St
Key West, FL 33040
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