Dam it! Bring back Beavers to halt wildfires
Northern California firestorms are a danger that’s flaming higher due to global warming. In 2018, 7,948 wildfires scorched 1,975,086 acres, causing $148.5 billion in damages.
What can be done?
Technology offers expensive solutions, like gigantic helicopters dropping massive quantities of water, or drone surveillance swarms equipped with AI collaborating with satellites, or enormous robot firefighters quickly spraying thousands of gallons of poisonous retardant.
But there’s another solution, a fuzzy warm-blooded answer, a big-toothed organic paddle-tailed problem-solver:
In North America, estimates claim there were 100–400 million beavers before Europeans arrived, dwelling on virtually every creek from Alaska to the Mexican border. A 2013 report claims San Jose was once a gigantic wetland; the same was true of the entire San Joaquin Valley.
By 1900, the fur trade had thoroughly massacred beavers for hats and perfume, reducing their number to a mere 100,000. Today this number has rebounded to 10–15 million, and beavers are recolonizing California.
The squat rodents are hard-working “hydro engineers” capable of resurrecting life in ecosystems, transforming them from dry, barren tinderboxes to moist fire-resistant wetlands. The ponds they patiently construct with trees they chew down and drag to block streams deliver multiple benefits: they store runoff, reduce floods and droughts, recharge aquifers, improve fish habitat, provide wildlife refuge and create fire breaks.
Research via satellite imagery indicates areas where beavers build dams burn three times less than areas without beavers. Scientists say trying to burn an area where beavers have dams is “like trying to light a big old soggy sponge on fire.”
Aside from dams, beavers also build channels into surrounding areas, spreading the water around and soaking the landscape.
Bringing back the beavers would re-hydrate California land, and help thwart the spread of wildfires.
Nonprofits are already helping the beavers return to the state; two examples are Bring Back the Beaver Campaign in Sonoma County, California, and Worth a Dam, in Martinez, California.
How many beavers can the state maintain? A very large population. A survey of the Truckee River revealed 3.5 beavers per kilometer.
Share The World Club eagerly supports the reintroduction of beavers to California streams and creeks, as quickly as possible, to re-hydrate the land, creating habitat for multiple species, and serving as a wildfire barrier.