Farming the floodplain: overcoming tradeoffs to achieve good river governance in New England (2016-3)

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May 11, 2017
Benjamin P. Warner and Rachel E. Schattman

In New England (United States), climate change models forecast increasing frequent floods. Communities in this region are already experiencing these changes, along with the negative consequences associated with them (such as inundation, erosion, natural habitat destruction, and property damage.) Agriculture in New England is often sited in floodplains, which means that farmers face significant risk of crop losses when their fields flood. These farmers are already adapting to the increased risk of flooding, however some of their actions have negative implication for communities downstream, both human and natural. This case study examines the competing perspectives of farmers and other community stakeholders in the Deerfield River Watershed in Western Massachusetts in the context of the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act. Our premise is that, considering the intensified pressures of climate change, the laws in place are no longer sufficient. Students are asked to consider complex social, economic, political, and environmental dimension as the propose amendments to the current river governance structure. This case has been classroom tested.

Estimated time frame: 
A few class periods
SES learning goals: 
  • Understand the structure and behavior of socio-environmental systems
Has this been tested in the class room: 
Course and class size: 
upper level environmental studies- Climate Change and Society (28 students)
Does this case have an answer key: 
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