With an emphasis on the Pack Creek drainage, a writer suggested in a letter to the editor in the Moab Sun’s Jan. 7 edition that “One possible solution is to allow livestock into the creek to feed on potential fuel sources.”

Instead of livestock, how about creatures that are able to restore water flow, replenish the aquifer, support wildlife and aid reversal of drought conditions altogether?

They are called beavers.

I watched a documentary called “Leave it to Beavers” that demonstrated the beaver’s amazing ability to transform dry, lifeless, tinderbox drainages into verdant riparian wonderlands teeming with wildlife.

Early European explorers who arrived in North America in the 1600s encountered beaver populations estimated up to 100 million. Beavers are Nature’s ecosystem engineers responsible for establishing abundant waterways, wetlands, ponds and lakes that support life for fish, insects, amphibians and all other animals including people! Beavers contribute to a healthy landscape to a degree that cannot be overstated.

With the rise of the fur trade in the mid-1600s, beaver fur became a valuable commodity causing their numbers to diminish by the mid-1800s to near extinction. Free-range cattle and sheep released onto vast landscapes decimated the once abundant tall grasses that some of our grandparents recall being “as high as the belly of a horse.” The decimation of beavers and loss of healthy grasses led to erosion, the Cisco Desert for example. Many of the drainages we see along creeks are cut deep and steep and now often run dry.

When beavers are present, they build a series of dams slowing the flow of water. This water filters down into the water table and recharges groundwater too. In some places, this increase in water storage helps keep streams wet that might otherwise go dry in the summer. Beaver habitat may seem destructive to us from all the trees and willows they cut down but over time what actually happens is the creek gets wider, ponds appear with fish, frogs, crawdads, cattails, reeds and willows return in abundance, tall grasses come back, the whole riparian corridor becomes lush with tree saplings sprouting further and further away from the original course of the creek. You can see how this is happening along the upper right hand of Mill Creek. In some places, the whole width of the canyon is spongy with moisture where it used to be dry as a bone. In this way, beavers create natural resistance to fires.

“Graze it, log it or watch it burn,” suggests an article from the Beef Daily as to how to mitigate wildfires.

Could fire mitigation look at how to restore nature, rather than destroy her?

Beavers are known as a ‘Keystone Species’ as they provide healthy resilient habitat that supports the whole community of life. Maybe our human species could learn a thing or two from our beaver friends? Watch “Leave it to Beavers.” It’s amazing!

Kaki Hunter

Moab, Utah