Biodiversity, Beavers, and Me

Beaver pond where our first Pioneer Valley Wetland Volunteers flow device was installed in 1998.

It is correctly said that “Knowledge is Power”. However, do not underestimate the “Power of Personal Experience”. It too can be a powerful change agent. In my life both of these were responsible for creating my personal passion for beavers. Here is my story.

In 1996 beavers had become very political topic here in Massachusetts due to a voter referendum that restricted beaver trapping. While supportive of the trapping restrictions, I didn’t know a lot about the value of beavers until my wife went to a beaver management workshop. She brought back information that taught me that beavers are a Keystone species, ecosystem creators and watershed restorers. That’s how I learned that saving one species, beavers, increases the biodiversity of other species and has many other positive impacts.  So in 1998 we started a volunteer group and installed our first Pond Leveler pipe along a very popular local bike trail to prevent the beavers from being trapped and killed, and the wetland drained.

Up to this point my motivation to help beavers was primarily intellectual and analytical. However, one day when I returned to the bike trail to check on our Pond Leveler pipe it became deeply personal. As I stood at the piped dam I was awestruck as I listened to a vibrant chorus of spring peepers, watched a kingfisher and swallows hunting, saw honeybees coming and going from a hole in a dead tree, and admired a Great Blue Heron gracefully glide across the sky. I sensed the wetland in a new way. It was a deep realization that all this life was there because the beavers were allowed to stay in place and do what they do naturally. Personally experiencing some of the beneficial effects of this Keystone species changed my life. It was, and continues to be, a deeply gratifying spiritual experience and journey.

This video from our beaver friends at Quonquont Farm in Whatley, MA is a fun, beautiful and powerful reminder of a fraction of the species that benefit when we properly steward the earth and allow beavers to build their dams.

As we start a new year I suggest we all take time on a regular basis to truly experience and enjoy the rejuvenating wonders of life that surround us, especially in beaver ponds.

If you would like to comment or share your own story please go to our Beaver Institute FB page.

Happy New Year!

Mike Callahan, President

Posted 12-31-17