Chip Ward is a big-picture thinker attuned to the importance of the small, local, persistent acts of reclamation and restoration. In this article he writes of the “original geo-engineers” that helped create the vibrant watersheds of the western U.S., watersheds that are now running dry, due in no small part to the eradication of those geo-engineers — dam-building beavers — by fur trappers, ranchers and irrigationists. The perspective he offers, the wisdom in his words, extends well beyond the species in question.
I used to say that in the long run we’d be wiser to invest in restoring watersheds than putting a camera on every corner. As it happens, given the tenacious drought now spreading across the West and Southwest, the long run seems to be here, sooner than expected. Even the Pentagon now acknowledges that ecological catastrophe sows human turmoil and suffering that eventually blows back our way. For the cost of just one of the 2,400 F-35 fighter jets we are committed to buying at historic prices, we could restore the stressed Aquarius watershed.
But the beavers don’t care what we do. They just do their own thing. They are like their human partners: persistent and oh so local.