Beavers make things complex. That is one of their essential and most beneficial characteristics. Complexity is good for nature, and what is good for nature is good for us. Beaver dams slow water down, create deeper and cooler ponds, resupply our ground water, and hold back sediment that would degrade water quality and hurt fish. Beavers are very good at changing a landscape and why they are known as “keystone species.” The habitats they create enable entire ecosystems to thrive. Beaver-made ponds are essential for salmon, migrating birds, amphibians, groundwater reserves through the summer, and all life.
The American Beaver may be the most iconic species in Oregon. In 1969, the Oregon legislature recognized the American beaver by designating it as Oregon’s official state animal. The beaver is depicted on the Oregon State flag, and is the mascot of Oregon State University. Oregon is often referred to as the “Beaver State”.
Oregon’s colonial economy was built on the trade of beaver pelts. During the 1800s, demand for pelts was so high that fur trappers virtually eliminated the species from many landscapes through unregulated trapping. However, over time with changes in management, beaver have re-established in many areas throughout their historic range. Still, it may surprise many Oregonians that beavers are not protected. In fact, every year, hundreds of beavers are killed and removed from our public and private waterways.
Their work is an incredibly beneficial tool to our changing climate, but they can present challenges in our built community. The Wetlands Conservancy is working with community members, landowners, water managers, agencies, students, and community groups to learn more about and celebrate the value beavers bring. We promote solutions that work WITH beavers so that our waterways and wetlands in the built environment can thrive.