Saturday, July 11, 2009

So Why Does One Manage a Beaver?

Once again a Republican anti-science quip has come back to bite them on the ass. We had Palin's French fruit flies, McCain's bear DNA tests, Jindal's volcano monitoring, and now McCain's quip about beaver management has come back to haunt his derriere, as we witness the comeback of unmanaged beavers into a bonafied major pest:

The dozens of public works officials, municipal engineers, conservation agents and others who crowded into a meeting room here one recent morning needed help. Property in their towns was flooding, they said. Culverts were clogged. Septic tanks were being overwhelmed.

Once wiped out in Massachusetts, beavers were repopulated in the 1930s.

“We have a huge problem,” said David Pavlik, an engineer for the town of Lexington, where dams built by beavers have sent water flooding into the town’s sanitary sewers. “We trapped them,” he said. “We breached their dam. Nothing works. We are looking for long-term solutions.”

Mary Hansen, a conservation agent from Maynard, said it starkly: “There are beavers everywhere.”

Laura Hajduk, a biologist with the state’s Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, had little to offer them. When beavers are trapped, others move in to replace them. And, she said, you can breach a beaver dam, but “I guarantee you that within 24 hours if the beavers are still there it will be repaired. Beavers are the ultimate ecosystem engineers.”

That was not what Mr. Pavlik was hoping to hear.

He is not alone in his dismay, and it is not just beavers. Around the nation, decades of environmental regulation, conservation efforts and changing land use have brought many species, like beavers, so far back from the brink that they are viewed as nuisances. As Stuart Pimm, a conservation ecologist at Duke University, put it, “We are finding they are inconvenient.”

Let's hope the recent GOP strategy of "pretend efforts to monitor and solve real problems are a joke" has run its course. I'm just waiting any day for someone to joke about monitoring financial institutions.

Hat tip: Mike the Mad Biologist

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