Because the beaver isn't just an animal; it's an ecosystem!

The Martinez Beavers

Utah has a deep bench


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Now this has got to be the icing on the cake. I don’t remember phys.org ever writing about Martinez. Notice there’s hardly a name in this story that we recognize even though I wrote about this three times. That’s what I mean by a deep bench. They have many important beaver advocates that they can endlessly trot out.

CaptureEcologists enlist beavers, walmart in wetlands conservation effort

The big-toothed rodents were nearly hunted to extinction during the 19th century in the mountain-encircled community, along with other areas of North America. But Utah State University scientists say the furry mammals are emerging as a valuable resource in restoring ecosystems imperiled by land use practices, drought and a changing climate.

“Beavers play a critical role in maintaining healthy aquatic and riparian habitat, which we desperately need in arid Utah,” says USU researcher Elijah Portugal. “Beaver dams store water in springtime, slow down the release of snowpack and prevent water from moving too quickly and evaporating, which benefits wildlife and all downstream users. Their dams also capture sediment, which improves water quality,”

“Beavers are brilliant engineers, providing multiple benefits that are difficult and expensive for humans to accomplish,” says Nick Bouwes, adjunct faculty member in USU’s Department of Watershed Sciences and owner of Eco Logical Research. “We believe there are ways to co-exist with beavers, while mitigating their harmful habits.”

To this end, Bouwes, Portugal, their students, Utah Conservation Corps members and community volunteers gathered at the Logan Walmart Oct. 12, 2015, to install two pond levelers, crafted in the USU lab, to the store’s surrounding waters. The cage-like levelers, made from wire, are connected to large plastic tubes that allow water to pass, while catching debris, and prevent beavers from building dams to flood-inducing heights. The researchers installed a leveler on each of two beaver dams on the south side of  Walmart’s property.

 The levelers will maintain the height of the ponds at a safe, desired level, without disturbing the beavers and their efforts,” Bouwes says. “It’s a winning solution for Walmart, the beavers and the surrounding community.”

This article is surprising in so many ways, not only does it prove that Utah believes in beavers. It proves that they believe in Climate Change!  I love how we now suddenly read Elijah Portugals name even through it never crossed our path before. Because in Utah, there are so many people who understand beavers we have advocates to spare.

Imagine: Extra advocates!

This kind of abundance doesn’t just happen. Its fiercely cultivated at the local, organizational and institutional level. It’s what made Utah the first state in the nation to develop a beaver management plan for the forestry service.  It’s what allowed Utah to pull off successful beaver festivals using the work of mostly students and government agencies. It’s why I get happy every time I see them in a headline because I know the end result is going to be awesome.

And you should never, never under estimate how much of that is  ultimately due to the work of this remarkable woman.

Mary O'brien
Mary Obrien: Grand Canyon Trust