Friday, December 14, 2012

Beavers in the Retention Pond (Part IV)

I'd love to not be posting exclusively on beavers, but they've been on my mind an awful lot these last couple of months. Other stuff is still happening (like a wild hive of honey bees a student of mine found nestled in an old white pine), so more to come on that later.

Other notes: Following up on my Monday post, the second reason that I'm upset by the way the "beaver problem" was handled is that it shows a lack of transparency and input from public voice. It's not surprising that Centennial Woods holds a dear spot in many people's hearts. Every time the University or City proposes some other development in or around CW, it just galvanizes the residents and students that love it. We want to have a say in the shaping and management of CW, to make sure that the emotional connection, and personal experience of the woods holds weight in how the land gets managed and stewarded. The decision (and lack of public input) doesn't appear to take this in to consideration; it doesn't even show a huge consideration for or knowledge of the ecology of that area. Even if Fish & Wildlife said that the beavers could be trapped and not moved, that doesn't mean that that's the other only option. I see two sets of options.

The first in relation to the beavers:
1. Trap all the beavers
2. Relocate the beavers
3. Do nothing
4. Wait until spring to see if beavers leave on their own, and then return to questions 1-3

The second set of options is what to do after the beavers are gone
1. Install beaver baffles around the outflow pipes
2. Cut down trees around pond to remove habitat
3. Do nothing

I'd prefer options 4 and 1. Again, people love this area and want input. Much like CW, few animals are as charismatic as a beaver is. These beavers in particular had become small-time celebrities - so when FWS says "yeah, go ahead and trap them" their comment is on one hand practical and on the otherhand completely ignorant of the context of this specific case - how embedded in the education of many students and hearts of community members these beavers were.

Two of the boys I mentor, one 7 the other 9, came out to Centennial Brook with me last year to meet the parents of one pair of these beavers. When I told the older boy the beavers had moved back in to Centennial Woods, he gathered up a group of his friends and brought them out to meet these beavers. While out visiting the beavers, Sam (the TA for my Natural History of Centennial Woods class) ran into them and they exchanged stories and watched three beavers making last minute preparations for winter, caching beech, cherry, and birch saplings near their lodge. The following day the boy brought his mom and grandma to the pond to meet Melvin and the other two beavers. I got to follow up with them and exchange more stories. Almost every time I go to the pond I meet up with someone down there and we share stories. The beavers have become an anchor for those of us who are connected to Centennial Woods.

It would be amazing if management decisions as sensitive as this were based not on relative ease, but took time and weighed multiple options with multiple voices. It might take more time, but it would empower community members and students to share their voice and make sure that management decisions reflect the needs, desires, and heart of the community that they effect. It'd be great if making "the right decision" included more that just a dialog about how to maintain the functionality of the outflow pipe. How wonderful if the list of consultants contacted for this decision included people deeply connected to the land, who knew this land not from a distance, but hold its stories in their hearts.

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