Introducing: The Beaver Coalition – a guest blog post by Jakob Shockey

Categories: Blog

Back when “novel coronavirus” was a phrase most of us had yet to hear, Rob Walton and I ate lunch in a dingy bar in Portland, Oregon. Earlier that day we’d spent hours in a windowless conference room deep in a grey cinderblock building, talking beaver policy. Rob had recently retired as a senior policy advisor with NOAA Fisheries, where he was the primary author of the Oregon Coast Coho Salmon Recovery Plan. After 5 years of installing nonlethal beaver coexistence devices with my business Beaver State Wildlife Solutions, I was suddenly mired in new permitting challenges. We were tired, we were frustrated, we were driven, and we needed lunch. The beer was thin, the fries were clammy, but we were hooked by the thin tendrils of an idea that would become The Beaver Coalition.

The valley I grew up in, where I now raise my children, was called “Sbink,” or “place of the Beaver” by the Takelma People. And it was a place of beaver, until Peter Skene Ogden led his Hudson’s Bay Company trappers through on his quest to create a fur desert. Even when the fur was gone, the valleys of the Siskiyous still bore treasure.

Waves of men would straighten the braided streams into single channels, moving them back and forth across the narrow valleys as they sluiced out the gold that had settled over thousands of years, captured in the complexity of a “beavered” landscape. While the gold is gone a few beaver remain, but their families now occupy the banks of incised riverbanks, the remnants of their past kingdom. As our late season snowpack slips into memory, each summer my children play with dry, powdery stones where I used swim in deep pools. Healing the land, paying back and paying forward, this is why I am focused on partnering with beaver.

While each of us on The Beaver Coalition team came to our work from different backgrounds, we are united by a drive to empower humans in partnering with beaver for abundant water and resilient, functioning streams.

Rob brings an expertise in salmon recovery, an understanding of policy and a mastery of bureaucracy.

Sarah Koenigsberg, producer/director of the award winning film The Beaver Believers, brought an awareness of these humble ecosystem engineers to tens of thousands of people as her film screened in film festivals worldwide. She brings the ability to unite people of different walks of life with a compelling story and a knack for helping scientists remember to talk like normal people.

Andrew Schwarz brings his skills and passion as a restoration practitioner.  

Jason Strauss brings a lifelong commitment to wildlife and a background in business.

Mike Rockett brings a deep dedication to the environment, a skillset in the law and a history setting up nonprofits.

Chris Jordan brings the tools of scientific inquiry, including his work in the team that developed the Beaver Dam Analog and the Beaver Restoration Guidebook to this effort as the chair of our Science and Technical Information Committee.

We live throughout the dark shadow of the Hudson’s Bay Company “fur desert” and have formed this partnership to leverage each other’s skills and passion.

Why The Beaver Coalition? Simply put, this is our effort to carry forward the legacies of those we have learned from in a strategic bid to help beaver change the world. Our mission is to empower humans to partner with beaver through education, science, advocacy, and process-based restoration. To borrow a term from biology geek-speak, we will address the “limiting factors” that prevent beaver from doing what they do within our landscape. Through a strategic focus on building an effective coalition, clarifying and advancing policies, promoting the best available science, developing education and outreach, and implementing beaver-based restoration, we will help beaver repair our planet. As with so many in this community of “beaver believers,” we are simultaneously pragmatic and dreamers, facilitating a paradigm shift in society’s relationship with beaver. We hope that by building The Beaver Coalition as a resilient nonprofit organization that works with and supports others, our community will have another useful tool in advancing this vision.

Please visit our newly launched website at www.beavercoalition.org to read more about our approach and sign up for our mailing list to stay abreast of what we’re up to. We’re excited about our upcoming projects and will be announcing them soon through that list. Perhaps most importantly, we want engage in conversations about how we can best be of service in this effort. Please let us know what opportunities The Beaver Coalition should consider to empower humans in partnering with beaver. What important lessons have you learned that you think we might benefit from? Please reach out to us or leave us a comment on our blog or social media platforms.

We take inspiration and have sought advice from the scientists and biologists working in federal, state and local agencies, tribes, and the people behind organizations including: Beaver Solutions LLC, Worth a Dam, Beavers: Wetlands and Wildlife, The Beaver Institute, Methow Beaver Project, The Beaver Ecology and Relocation Center, Anabranch Solutions, The Beaver Advocacy Committee of the South Umpqua Rural Community Partnership, Beaver Deceivers LLC, Cows and Fish, the Miistakis Institute, Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, Beavers Northwest, National Wildlife Federation’s Montana Beaver Working Group, Beaver Works Oregon, Muse Ecology Podcast, Sierra Wildlife Coalition, Defenders of Wildlife and Ecotone Inc. as well as so many key individuals including Glynnis Hood, Michael Runtz, Sherri Tippie, Suzanne Fouty, Mary O’Brien, Ben Goldfarb, Derek Gow, Gerhard Schwab, Duncan Haley and Valer Austin. This effort is only possible because of the foundational and continued work of these people and organizations. As 4H youth across rural America have pledged for generations, we’re eager to continuing to work together and be of service, with our heads, hearts and hands for a better community, country, and world.

Jakob Shockey,

Cofounder and Executive Director

The Beaver Coalition