Meet Beaver Institute’s New Executive Director – Adam Burnett

The water from the prairie pond wasn’t flowing to the farmer downstream because beavers had dammed the pipe with obsessive and exquisite precision. The assumption from all parties concerned, and parties who weren’t concerned but had an opinion, was you had two options: remove the beavers or kill them. The latter being the most preferred. These options made no sense to me and thus began my journey in considering, co-managing, and cooperating with beavers. This is also the journey that led to the Beaver Institute.

Over the past two years, I have learned to build and install a beaver deceiver, manage landscaping by fencing trees, and gently educate myself and others on the mutual benefits of beaver’s presence. In all of these instances, nothing happened in a vacuum. Despite the distance the pandemic has placed in our lives, co management with beavers requires partnership and cooperation. You cannot install a culvert alone, you must solicit the skills and expertise of others.

With the guidance of the Beaver Institute’s practical educational materials, I’ve witnessed what an impact beavers make on just 30 acres of earth. The water is cleaner, migrating birds are resting longer, and the ecosystem is recovering from previous abuses. When I am on the pond in Kansas, each day I walk the woods and pasture surrounding the water, taking stock of what beaver has been up to overnight. This consideration prompts one to see the minutiae of not just the beaver’s pathway, but the pathways of all living things.

Living alongside beavers enhances a capacity for empathy, to put oneself in the shoes of another, see where their problem is coming from, and listen deeply to their concerns and frustrations, especially because they might be different than your own. It is a challenge and delight to communicate the mutually beneficial exchange possible with beavers. And this will be the driving engine behind my role as Executive Director with the Beaver Institute.

In my first weeks, I have marveled at the intentionality and commitment, powered completely by volunteers, that has gone into constructing the Beaver Institute. I am honored to have the trust of Mike Callahan and the Board as I gallop in. Having built and managed a non-profit myself, an experimental theatre company of all things, I understand the many hours of love and labor from a disparate configuration of individuals that have gone into making the Beaver Institute what it is today. And from my comprehensive experience in fundraising, development, and non-profit leadership, I am eager to leverage the efforts of this community by working diligently and cogently to bring more support, recognition, and advocacy for beavers and the Beaver Institute.

I look forward to immersing myself thoroughly over the next months and meeting many of you at BeaverCON 2022 this summer. I intend to intentionally wind my way throughout the country, seeding support and community for beavers and the natural restoration of this earth through interspecies collaboration. So, if not at BeaverCON, I will meet you elsewhere, soon!