Well I’ll be gosh-darned. I just opened the nicest email from the beaver-savvy author of this High Country News review. It’s the kind of email that no girl deserves twice in her life, so I may as well just cancel the account now and hang up my ‘retired beaver tale-teller’ sign. You know, way back when I was a wee snip of a beaver advocate struggling to save our beavers from a conibear I was transfixed by a wondrous article in HCN that introduced me to the beaver shaman Mary Obrien who preached a whole new way of thinking about beavers and streams and ecology. The hair stood up on my arm to think that such wisdom existed in the world. And to get such a nice email from one of its reporters – well. You can see why I’m still tingling.
Apparently, he was prompted by reading our newsletter, which we had beautifully printed and received last week. (It came out pretty sharp, so if you would like your very own copy, email me an address and I’ll be happy to send one.)I asked his permission to share the delightful email because it’s the kind of gratifying pipe you want to pass to your circle of friends, but in the mean time here’s his awesome review of Frances Backhouse book. And some highlights so you can see that he really gets why all this beaver business matters.
Our relationship with North America’s largest rodent is so complex that we can no longer classify beavers as simply as Horace T. Martin did in Castorologia, an 1892 zoological monograph written when beavers hovered on the brink of extinction. Frances Backhouse — formerly a seabird and grizzly biologist, now a University of Victoria-based writer/teacher — takes a new look at this landscape-changing critter in her book, Once They Were Hats: In Search of the Mighty Beaver. The book was a finalist for the Lane Anderson award for the best Canadian science book of 2015.
For last few centuries, we’ve regarded beavers as either nuisances or commodities. Now, we’re increasingly learning how they make our landscapes livable: not only by clearing a path for settled lands and farms, but by filtering, diversifying and storing the water on which we depend. Backhouse identifies beavers as “a classic keystone species — that is, the indispensable creator of ecosystems that support entire ecological communities; an unwitting faunal philanthropist.” As a Canadian, she surely has a particular affinity for her national animal, but the beavers’ watershed stewardship blurs political borders. In her final chapter, “Détente,” Backhouse shows that countries that once fought over fur are finding between beavers and humans can help provide a cooler future, too.
First of all, if you haven’t read the book yet, buy it NOW. Because you really need to support this kind of revisionist beaver thinking. And second of all, go read the whole review because it’s very well written and will make you eager to start flipping through pages. And third, I just heard from Mr. Rich that he is willing to let me share this so here’s the first paragraph that you can use please at my eulogy.
As we start a new year, I want to thank you for your tireless coverage of all things beaver. After reading your recent post and newsletter on the decade you have honored this marvelous rodent, I realized what a small fraction of those 10,000 viewers/week probably reciprocate with the praise and support that Worth a Dam deserves. I know that I am guilty of this, having been a daily reader for at least the last two years without ever saying a word. I am so devoted to your site because there is no other nexus with such comprehensive insights into the beaver’s ecological benefits, and wisdom about their evolving relationship with us. There are many places to learn “facts” about beavers, but you connect them with humor and heart as you bring “distant leaders and particular regional blind spots” into conversation. So I hope I speak for many hundreds more when I say THANK YOU!
I honestly have never read anything that makes me happier. Or ascribes better purpose to my weirdly addictive pastime. I frankly would be making it up if I ever tried to say why I post about beavers every day, or who I think reads and depends on it. But now I have the perfect answer, and suddenly it all makes sense.
I do it for Mr. Rich.