Yesterday was sneak peek into how a deeply intelligent and committed organization functions. The folk are SARSAS were among the brightest and most ecologically attuned folk I had ever addressed. Many of them were steadfast beaver fans and mentioned to me that the ‘woman who had come last time seemed a little misinformed’. (Ya think?) Jack Sanchez the president who was the brightest and most eager of the bunch, had a million ideas and contacts and wanted to introduce me to all of them. But the single best part about yesterday was when he started out the day by saying:
“I was reading my favorite book this morning, Moby Dick, and came across a favorite quote that reminded me of how folk feel about beavers”
“Ignorance is the parent of fear”
Apparently he used to be an English teacher and Melville is his go-to reread. Of course I told him I had just finished listening to the Big Read of every chapter, and told him how fun it was to hear those word read by folks like Tilda Swinton and David Attenborough. Also how the chapters on faulty representation in art or history reminded me so much about beavers. He very much agreed and was excited to listen on his own.
Small World with beavers in it!
Since they got to hear from Mary Tappel last month I started out by saying our talks would be fairly different. And then mentioned her obliquely a couple times in the story, like saying a ‘beaver expert’ whom you know came to Martinez and said ‘flow devices never work’ but ours worked for a decade. Ahh that was fun.
But the VERY best part was when I got to the end and talked about reviewing the depredation permits and how one county had issued 7 times more than any other. As soon as they saw the map they were murmuring with annoyance. After the talk they arranged for me to come address the county supervisors and the AG commission and record something that could go to every class room. Jack has already picked the day that I should come back next year.
If a single thing has a chance of opening the eyes of placer county, it was in that room yesterday.
Onto some nice beaver news, first a beautiful column from Tom Venesky in Ohio who wrote a trapping column about beavers a few years back called ‘Stepping it up for beavers’ and defending their role as ecosystem engineers that I regard as one of the useful things ever written about beaver benefits. This column is about canoeing a beaver swap, and it’s just nice to read. Especially as they combine two of my favorite things ever: watching beavers and being in a canoe.
From my seat in the canoe I watched in amazement.
I was exploring a beaver pond and ventured into the flooded trees, a section the beavers had recently dammed around their lodge. The water was too shallow for even the canoe, but open trails through the floating weeds hinted at beaver trails leading to the lodge, and I knew they would provide deeper travel lanes.
As I neared the edge of the swamp, I spotted an object parting the still water on the surface.
It was an enormous beaver with a head like a concrete block. I was mesmerized at the stealth in which it maneuvered through the tangle of brush, trees and weeds. The beaver was only several yards away and it was aware of my presence as it glided away from the edge of the swamp toward it’s lodge. The beaver swam in silence, parting the thick aquatic vegetation with ease, deftly curling its body to dive under a limb and, for a brief moment, climbing out of the water to cross a log.
Despite all of the obstacles and it’s enormous size, the beaver didn’t make a sound as it moved. It barely stirred the surface and, even though I was nearby, never slapped it’s tail. The beaver never disrupted the solitude of the swamp.
After watching for a few moments, I lost the beaver as it ventured farther into the swamp and closer to the safety of it’s lodge. After watching the beaver expertly swim through the swamp, I went back to my “clumsy” routine of pushing the canoe with an oar and moving face-slapping limbs out of the way.
Isn’t that lovely? Go read his fine description of beaver habitat in full. You know the first beaver I ever saw was from a canoe. I might not have the balance for it any more, but I still have lots of these mornings tucked inside me to remember. Nothing like coffee with the dawn in a canoe.
Another nice plug for the Methow project in Washington, who gets a summer intern worth writing about!
Rising sophomore Satya Kent received a Strong/Gault Social Advancement grant to work for the Methow Salmon Recovery Foundation, which is working to restore habitat for fish and wildlife in eastern Washington state. One of its projects is to establish new beaver colonies at high elevations to help alleviate drought conditions in the Methow River watershed, an area of about 2,000 square miles that drains the North Cascade mountains.
Beaver wetlands can be helpful to the surrounding area because they filter sediments and pollutants from streams, and spread rivers across floodplains, allowing water to percolate into aquifers. Beaver-made wetlands also provide rearing grounds for young fish, limit flooding, and keep small creeks flowing year-round.
It’s a nice article about the good work Methow has been doing since 2008. Good luck Satya! Have a wonderful summer! Many years ago a student working for Methow gave me this footage as a thankyou for loaning him equipment to present at the conference. It remains some of my favorite.