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Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter by Ben Goldfarb (review)

Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter by Ben Goldfarb (review) accounts and First Nations oral history revealed the once nearly universal presence of beaver in California. Reviews e r Th emoval of beaver was so complete that even Aldo’s son, the eminent hydrologist Luna Leopold, failed to realize the role beavers once played in river systems in Book Review the West and across the nation. Before trapping nearly exterminated the beaver their dams may have submerged Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and 234,000 square miles of the country, an area comparable Why They Matter in size to the combined area of Nevada and Arizona. The Ben Goldfarb. 2018. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea myriad beaver dams stabilized river flows, improved water Green Publishing. ISBN 978-1-60-358739-6. $24.95 quality, controlled floods and provided protection for fish, Hardcover. 304 pages. birds, frogs and many other species. Every once in a while a book arrives that delivers a new This book will reshape your thinking about watersheds and powerful environmental message. Ben Goldfarb’s new and water flow through ecosystems. It shows how beaver book about beavers challenges us all to better understand can restore degraded watersheds. In some cases, human what we have lost and what we can gain with the help beaver dam surrogates are needed to improve conditions of the industrious beaver. This book rises to the level of enough to support beaver colonies and let them take over George Perkins Marsh’s Man and Nature (1864), Aldo the dam building and repair work (Pollock et al. 2017). Leopold’s Sand County Almanac (1948), Rachel Carson’s, Sadly, in some cases the damage to the watershed has been Silent Spring (1962), and Andrea Wulf ’s The Invention so severe that beaver cannot be returned even with help. of Nature (2016). It should be required reading for every I am confident this book will help encourage you to ecology and history student, land managers, ranchers, rethink how you consider past histories of the sites you s fi hermen, developers and birdwatcher in America! work on. I also hope it will lead you to support further Goldfarb provides a remarkable look into the effect bea - beaver reintroductions and to pursue changes in the laws vers have on critical issues for America, drought relief, and policies that in some areas that still consider beavers flood control, fisheries, and biodiversity. He makes it clear as villains. Problem beaver should be translocated instead enough for the general reader, but detailed enough for a of killed. We need their work and water! professional ecologist. His profiles of the “beaver believ- ers” and their successes (and sometimes failures) will help References get more people out watching, supporting, and enjoying Lanman, R.B, H. Perryman, B. Dolman and C.D. James. 2012. these furry ecological engineers. e hi Th storical range of the beaver ( Castor canadensis) in the He oer ff s a clear eyed view of the great benefits beaver Sierra Nevada. California Fish and Game 98:65–80. dams can provide, and also reviews the many solutions Lanman, R.B., K. Lunsquist, H. Perryman, J.E. Asarian, that have been developed to minimize unwanted block- B.  Dolman, R.B. Lanman and M.P. Pollock. 2013. The ing of culverts and flooding caused by beaver dams. In historical range of beaver (Castor canadensis) in coastal California and the San Francisco Bay Area: An updated most cases Beaver Deceivers can keep water flowing freely review of the evidence. California Fish and Game 99:193–221. despite the beavers ingrained need to build dams and Pollock, M.M., G.M. Lewallen, K. Woodruff, C.E. Jordan and conserve water. J.M. Castro (eds). 2017. The Beaver Restoration Guidebook: His book also highlights the “shifting baselines” prob - Working with Beaver to Restore Streams, Wetlands, and lem oen face ft d by ecologists and environmental histo - Floodplains. Version 2.0., Portland, OR: United States Fish rians. By the time biologists and other scientists started and Wildlife Service. studying ecosystems they were so degraded they oer ff ed little information about how they functioned before the David A. Bainbridge is a restoration ecologist and beaver were removed in the 1700s or 1800s. For example, author of A Guide for Desert and Dryland Restoration in California the biologists believed that beavers were his- (2007) Island Press, and Gardening with Less Water (2015) Storey Press. torically relatively rare and found in few areas. Recent work by Lanman and others (2012, 2013) has completely revised the story. Combining historical records, trapping December 2018 ECOLOGICAL RESTORATION 36:4 • 333 http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Ecological Restoration University of Wisconsin Press

Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter by Ben Goldfarb (review)

Ecological Restoration , Volume 36 (4) – Nov 22, 2018

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Publisher
University of Wisconsin Press
ISSN
1543-4079

Abstract

accounts and First Nations oral history revealed the once nearly universal presence of beaver in California. Reviews e r Th emoval of beaver was so complete that even Aldo’s son, the eminent hydrologist Luna Leopold, failed to realize the role beavers once played in river systems in Book Review the West and across the nation. Before trapping nearly exterminated the beaver their dams may have submerged Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and 234,000 square miles of the country, an area comparable Why They Matter in size to the combined area of Nevada and Arizona. The Ben Goldfarb. 2018. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea myriad beaver dams stabilized river flows, improved water Green Publishing. ISBN 978-1-60-358739-6. $24.95 quality, controlled floods and provided protection for fish, Hardcover. 304 pages. birds, frogs and many other species. Every once in a while a book arrives that delivers a new This book will reshape your thinking about watersheds and powerful environmental message. Ben Goldfarb’s new and water flow through ecosystems. It shows how beaver book about beavers challenges us all to better understand can restore degraded watersheds. In some cases, human what we have lost and what we can gain with the help beaver dam surrogates are needed to improve conditions of the industrious beaver. This book rises to the level of enough to support beaver colonies and let them take over George Perkins Marsh’s Man and Nature (1864), Aldo the dam building and repair work (Pollock et al. 2017). Leopold’s Sand County Almanac (1948), Rachel Carson’s, Sadly, in some cases the damage to the watershed has been Silent Spring (1962), and Andrea Wulf ’s The Invention so severe that beaver cannot be returned even with help. of Nature (2016). It should be required reading for every I am confident this book will help encourage you to ecology and history student, land managers, ranchers, rethink how you consider past histories of the sites you s fi hermen, developers and birdwatcher in America! work on. I also hope it will lead you to support further Goldfarb provides a remarkable look into the effect bea - beaver reintroductions and to pursue changes in the laws vers have on critical issues for America, drought relief, and policies that in some areas that still consider beavers flood control, fisheries, and biodiversity. He makes it clear as villains. Problem beaver should be translocated instead enough for the general reader, but detailed enough for a of killed. We need their work and water! professional ecologist. His profiles of the “beaver believ- ers” and their successes (and sometimes failures) will help References get more people out watching, supporting, and enjoying Lanman, R.B, H. Perryman, B. Dolman and C.D. James. 2012. these furry ecological engineers. e hi Th storical range of the beaver ( Castor canadensis) in the He oer ff s a clear eyed view of the great benefits beaver Sierra Nevada. California Fish and Game 98:65–80. dams can provide, and also reviews the many solutions Lanman, R.B., K. Lunsquist, H. Perryman, J.E. Asarian, that have been developed to minimize unwanted block- B.  Dolman, R.B. Lanman and M.P. Pollock. 2013. The ing of culverts and flooding caused by beaver dams. In historical range of beaver (Castor canadensis) in coastal California and the San Francisco Bay Area: An updated most cases Beaver Deceivers can keep water flowing freely review of the evidence. California Fish and Game 99:193–221. despite the beavers ingrained need to build dams and Pollock, M.M., G.M. Lewallen, K. Woodruff, C.E. Jordan and conserve water. J.M. Castro (eds). 2017. The Beaver Restoration Guidebook: His book also highlights the “shifting baselines” prob - Working with Beaver to Restore Streams, Wetlands, and lem oen face ft d by ecologists and environmental histo - Floodplains. Version 2.0., Portland, OR: United States Fish rians. By the time biologists and other scientists started and Wildlife Service. studying ecosystems they were so degraded they oer ff ed little information about how they functioned before the David A. Bainbridge is a restoration ecologist and beaver were removed in the 1700s or 1800s. For example, author of A Guide for Desert and Dryland Restoration in California the biologists believed that beavers were his- (2007) Island Press, and Gardening with Less Water (2015) Storey Press. torically relatively rare and found in few areas. Recent work by Lanman and others (2012, 2013) has completely revised the story. Combining historical records, trapping December 2018 ECOLOGICAL RESTORATION 36:4 • 333

Journal

Ecological RestorationUniversity of Wisconsin Press

Published: Nov 22, 2018

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