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Adelle D. Monteblanco
PhD Candidate
Department of Sociology
University of Colorado
Moving to Higher Ground: Ecosystems, Economics and Equity in the Floodplain 

Healthy river systems serve a wide variety of functions, including recreation, crop production, and navigation. Effective floodplain management requires integrating cultural, economic and ecosystem needs, and often tradeoffs must be made. This case study uses role-playing, jigsaw- and discussion-based approaches to engage students in floodplain management decision-making. The case scenario is set in the real town of Olive Branch, a small community on the Mississippi River in Southern Illinois that was flooded in 1993 and 2011 and which is considering whether to move out of the floodplain.  If the community moves, the area could then undergo habitat restoration or could be used for agricultural expansion. Assuming the roles of conservation biologists, farmers, property owners, and hunters, students evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of three options: (1) not moving, (2) moving and restoring floodplain habitat, or (3) moving and allowing agricultural expansion. This case is appropriate for undergraduate courses in environmental science, environmental policy, and sociology of natural hazards.