Beavers play valuable role in natural mitigation against climate change

March 6, 2023

WildEarth Guardians protects native wildlife species because it’s the right thing to do; because individual wild animals have an inherent right to exist and because the way we, as a society, treat wildlife speaks volumes about how we treat the most vulnerable among us. But we also protect wildlife because nature cannot thrive without them. Wildlife are critical components of functioning ecosystems on which we rely. Some species also have far-reaching effects in the fight against climate change.

Of course it’s important to invest billions of dollars into slowing and mitigating climate change, but nature also has its own incredible tools to help increase climate resilience. Beavers–perhaps second only to humans in their ability to alter the environment–are one of those tools. Unfortunately, beavers are still trapped and killed all across the west, either because they have historically been labeled a nuisance or for the petty price of their pelts.

Last week, WildEarth Guardians, a slew of other organizations, and leading scientists called on President Biden to protect beavers across federal lands to leverage these hyper-efficient “landscape engineers” to mitigate the effects of the climate crisis. 

Beavers–through their incredible dam-building–are shown to store water, help recharge aquifers, create and restore wetlands, clean water resources, bolster aquatic habitat, temper flooding, create wildfire breaks, prompt biodiversity, and even sequester carbon. The works of beavers are so impressive and important that people have begun imitating their infrastructure. But beavers are the most efficient dam-builders around. And there are a lot of free ecosystem services to be had if we could only let beavers live.

But anti-beaver sentiments run deep. Driven by misinformation and the arrogance that humans are the most important species on the planet, beavers are still likely to be killed or their dams destroyed whenever they create a mild inconvenience. That sentiment is changing as people begin to realize the good that beavers do. But change is slow.

Our request to President Biden is rooted in both values and science. Protecting beavers is a win for all. The American West is drying, warming, and burning. Nobody–no special interest group–is immune to these threats. And beavers can offer a partial solution if they are protected and restored.

Read our full press release here and check out the New Mexico Beaver Summit, which WildEarth Guardians co-hosted in 2020.

Beaver swimming with branches. Photo by Sam Parks.

About the Author

Chris Smith | Southern Rockies Wildlife Advocate, WildEarth Guardians

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