Slightly better at keeping secrets

   Posted by heidi08 On June - 22 - 2013

Way back when Worth A Dam was just forming, (during the punic wars, as Edward Albee would say) I was looking for a licensed non-profit to be our receiving organization and was having conversations with an urban wildlife group based in LA. I was so excited they were interested in being involved I wrote it about it on the then nascent website and they were so annoyed I had blasted the secret liaison-in-process that they withdrew. Keeping secrets, I learned, is very important for beavers. Who knew? It was okay, very soon after their withdrawal I did a presentation for Pleasant Hill Creeks and met Bill Feil of Land for Urban Wildlife who became our official non-profit umbrella and that has worked very well for 5 years. I think it was all for the best, but I did learn something about keeping secrets.


Sarah Koenisberg


What I learned is to not talk about the thing you’re not supposed to talk about, but to keep asking for permission over and over in alternately charming and irritating ways until your requests are so annoying you are given the all clear! So when Suzanne Fouty called to ask me if I’d talk to Sarah Koenigsberg of Whitman college in WA a few months ago, I said sure. Talk beavers to a complete stranger? Of course! Turns out Sarah is an instructor working on a film project about beavers and their advocates, focusing on climate change and water. She was going to interview Mary Obrien and Suzanne Fouty and Sherri Tippie for the film, but all three insisted they talk to me as well.

It was an incredibly exciting moment to think that the three believed I had something important to offer to the film, because I admire those three women slightly more than God. I could remember the amazing article that first introduced me to Mary way back when she was described in that excellent article from High Country News. It remains one of my favorite beaver reads, even though I now realize the photo at the beginning is a muskrat – not a beaver.

The Semester in the West – or here let them describe it

Whitman College Semester in the West is an interdisciplinary field program focusing on public lands conservation and rural life in the interior American West. Our objective is to know the West in its many dimensions, including its diverse ecosystems, its social and political communities, and the many ways these ecosystems and communities find expression in regional environmental writing and public policy.

We agreed that they would come help with Festival VI, get some film of it and we’d do an interview as well. Wow! Can I tell everyone right now? I was dimly able to ask. No, Sarah said, let me get it confirmed and formalized and then it can happen. I promised to hold my tongue. Which I did. Can I talk about it now? How ’bout now?

Cat out of the bag! All I can say is Sarah should be thankful there were distracting new kits to keep me occupied! Yesterday I finally got the ALL CLEAR so now it’s official and I can formally say that Sarah of Tensegrity productions will be coming to do an interview and film the festival.

The project at hand is a documentary film with the working title, The Beaver Believers. It tells the story of several strong women and their allies, and their common cause of seeking to restore Castor Canadensis, the North American beaver, to much of its former native habitat to provide more water and habitat in the ever-warming West. We propose to tell their stories of creativity, grit, and whimsy with the same spirited spontaneity and serendipity as their activism and ecological citizenship itself. The film will be 35- to 45-minutes in length, appropriate for the “documentary short” category in film festivals.

A collaborative effort between filmmaker Sarah Koenigsberg (director of photography) and Whitman College Professor of Politics Phil Brick (director), The Beaver Believers is already well on its way into pre-production, and we have a rigorous production schedule planned for the summer of 2013. Filming will take place from May to August with shoots scheduled in Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. {eds note: AND MARTINEZ!}

Now you must hear a taste of their reporting on the subject, listen to this podcasts started at the Utah festival last year. Click on the photo to listen and imagine how the first festival in Utah might compare to the 6th in Martinez. Don’t you live their voices? Mary’s metaphor of the wildlife riding on the beaver tail is an art project waiting to happen! And Sherry’s voice always makes me want to sit in the front for and listen! Suzanne is outstanding! Oh and while you’re listening remember that painting beaver tails and pinning the tail on the beaver are all things the learned about from us.

Click to Play

They’re stuck with us now. We’re on the calendar and they are sending a team to help lift, carry and film. I’m sure they’ll want to do a beaver viewing too! I’ll do an official announcement this weekend and let Martinez know they’re going to be on camera for beavers. Again! I heard from Sarah that they just got back from Idaho yesterday, visiting some places with beautiful beaver dams and some places that should have them but don’t because they’re always trapped and killed.They also met with Carol Evans of the BLM in Nevada and checked out their amazing habitat in Elko.

I confess to you that I am deeply excited and appropriately terrified about their coming, but every contact I’ve had with Sarah has been reassuring. When I listen to the clip yesterday I realize that this is going to be a inescapably big deal and I can only comfort myself in the usual manner by thinking critically. The very young voice behind that podcast (one of the students) gets to describe Dr. Obrien’s face as being “lined with the desert”? (!) And Dr. Fouty wears “hippie clothes?” (!!) Goodness, what does Mr. ‘Sage’ look like? No comment? Why are the women itemized in narration and not the men? We would have words. That ought to keep me focused. I can do this. I’ve been interviewed in my living room before. Don Bernier filmed me and the first ever meeting of Worth A Dam and Richard Parks used an interview for his final project at UCB school of journalism. I’ll carry on as best I can. Think of the beavers.

And speaking of distracting new kits, our bravest 2013 model was out at 7:30 on Thursday night, allowing me to catch this glimpse as he made his way up from the secondary, through the primary and back home.

His uncle provided a more relaxed photo shoot.

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