Leave It to Beaver: Restoration of Busy Species Could Restore U.S. Landscape
Flow, storage and transformation of materials and energy services performed by beavers if returned to a Utah river basin could add up to $411,000 per square mile
One five-star general in the campaign to save nature is Dr. Mary O’Brien, and she has a thing for beaver, the championing of which she has completely converted me to. In the first place, the quest for beaver has arguably had more impact on American history than the pursuit of any other single natural resource, its influence lasting well over 200 years. Sixty million or so beaver populated North America before 1600, and had a huge effect on the hydrology of the landscape – beaver dams stored water, slowed its flow and rate of evaporation, slowed erosion and supported a wealth of fish and bird species. In fact, the extermination of beaver from North America arguably marks the point at which our landscapes began to buckle and slide down the ruinous course we find them on now. Especially in the West, where water has always been an enormous issue and will become more important as climate change affects it, there is a real imperative to put beaver back on the waterways.
Excerpted from THE SPINE OF THE CONTINENT: THE MOST AMBITIOUS WILDLIFE CONSERVATION PROJECT EVER UNDERTAKEN by Mary Ellen Hannibal. Copyright © 2012 by Lyons Press, an imprint of Globe Pequot Press. Reprinted by permission.