Flexible Entrepreneurial Rancher Uses Beavers “As Furry Weapons of Climate Resilience” to Create Water Storage

(p. A1) As global warming intensifies droughts, floods and wildfires, Mr. Smith has become one of a growing number of ranchers, scientists and other “beaver believers” who see the creatures not only as helpers, but as furry weapons of climate resilience.

Last year, when Nevada suffered one of the worst droughts on record, beaver pools kept his cattle with enough water. When rains came strangely hard and fast, the vast network of dams slowed a torrent of water raging down the mountain, protecting his hay crop. And with the beavers’ help, creeks have widened into wetlands that run through the sagebrush desert, cleaning water, birthing new meadows and creating a buffer against wildfires.

. . .

(p. A15) . . . Mr. Smith decided to try a different approach to cattle management, moving them around his land and letting them spend less time around the creeks. That allowed shrubs and trees to grow in along the banks, making the whole area more stable. Eventually, if the beaver dams did give way, they would do so at the center, and the surge of water would stay in the channel.

. . .

Part of what has made the partnership successful is Mr. Smith’s flexibility. For example, beavers have completely rerouted one section of creek. But Mr. Smith doesn’t see the change as good or bad, “just different.” The most important thing, he said, is how much water they’re storing on the land.

Now more than ever, he said, “water is liquid gold.”

For the full story, see:

Catrin Einhorn and Niki Chan Wylie. “A Nevada Rancher Made a Truce With Beavers, and It Paid Off.” The New York Times (Tuesday, September 6, 2022): A1 & A15.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version was updated Sept. 14, 2022, and has the title “It Was War. Then, a Rancher’s Truce With Some Pesky Beavers Paid Off.”)

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