Some of the US’ western states are rediscovering the beavers as a partner in creating and maintaining healthy ecosystems. Historically, as much as one-tenth of North America was beaver-created wetlands. These, along with other wetlands, floodplains, meadows, and forests played a critical role in the healthy water cycle. But as beavers were hunted for their fur and/or removed from the landscape, populations declined drastically, as did beaver-created wetlands. Meanwhile, something important had been lost in the West: reliable water. Beaver removal – as well as settlers cutting forests, straightening waterways, draining wetlands, and leveeing off floodplains – fundamentally altered the plumbing of the continent, speeding water off the land. Groundwater levels fell, no longer supplying streams year-round and North America became a drier less ecologically diverse place. A new group of activists has been born, inspired by the science that shows beaver wetlands buffer flood and drought, create firebreaks, and build habitat for other wildlife. Washington, Oregon, Wyoming, Utah, California and most other western states are re-embracing beavers for their ability to increase water supply, restore ecosystems, and ramp up resilience to climate change and wildfire.

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