Wisconsin’s War on Nature

Fish Fervor Destroys Beavers—and Wetlands during Decade of Drought

It’s not only unions that Wisconsin has declared war upon. Since 1985 the
Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources (WDNR) has waged a successful
campaign to wipe out 70% of the state’s beavers (shrinking a population of
225,000 in 1985 to 67,000 in 2008) for the declared benefit of trout fishermen.

Much of the battleground is in northern Wisconsin, where beavers have been repeatedly “cleared” from about 1,500 miles of streams and adjacent uplands. Hydrologist Donald Hey, cofounder of the Wetlands Initiative based in Illinois, said of the WDNR’s current beaver plan.

“They’re making a huge mistake. If anything, they should go the other way. By eliminating the beaver, you are reducing the storage the capacity of the watershed over time and reducing water quality.”

Because beaver dams slow the flow of streams and keep water on the land for days to weeks, instead of hours, silt settles out and waterways, are stabilized. This means less water treatment is needed downstream, and less damage occurs from floods and droughts. When the early fur traders took out tens of millions of North American beavers before 1900, hydrologists believe the water table in the Mississippi River drainage basin—including Wisconsin–dropped significantly. Now the state has created a Beaver Task Force to update the draconian management plan.

Read the full article: Wisconsin’s War on Nature

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