Leave It To Beavers

Oregon is killing off one of nature’s best firefighters.

Now, at the end of the 2021 legislative session, there have been some real gains in the area of climate legislation and social policies for humans. Animals have not fared as well. Most meaningful wildlife protection policies were tossed in the bin, mainly HB 2728, which would have outlawed barbaric killing contests, and HB2843 and 2844, designed to protect beavers in the Beaver State. Killing contests deserve their own column, but first a bit about beavers.

Last summer Oregon endured the single most flammable year in modern history. Record-setting fire after record-setting fire churned through the state, yet once again we continue to ignore or even kill the water-saving firefighter who would work for free to protect us: the beaver.

Recent research, published under the title “Smokey the Beaver,” found beaver complexes were three times more resistant to wildfire than similar areas without beaver. Beaver habitat, with its dams, ponds and canals, showed less wildfire damage than un-beavered streams. In keeping water on the landscape, beavers reduce fire, mitigate drought and recharge groundwater.

Beavers save water and reduce the risk and severity of wildfire. They do it all day, every day, at zero taxpayer expense. Their ponds have been consistently shown to increase biodiversity from stoneflies to steelhead. Beaver ponds help fish survive at a time when the Pacific coast is hemorrhaging salmon.

Our own self-interest dictates our attention. Yet Oregon isn’t learning. 

Susan Libby

Great Old Broads for Wilderness


Editor’s note: Since this letter was published in EW, we have learned that it draws heavily and without attribution on a column by Heidi Perryman published in the San Francisco Chronicle on June 26.