Who would have thought that removing beavers from the land and putting cows on it would encourage wildfires? But that is the crux of the excellent commentary “The best way to prevent wildfires” (Sunday Review-Journal).
In order to supply hats and other clothing to fashion lovers in Europe in the mid-1800s, entrepreneurs begin trapping beavers in the American West for their luxurious fur. As happens often with startup industries, trapping was overdone, and most of the Western beaver were wiped out by the end of the 1800s. During this same period, with BLM support, other entrepreneurs began to raise cattle on Western lands, crowding out native animals and plants.
Cows tend to congregate at water sources, disrupting stream banks, polluting the water and eating the surrounding vegetation needed to retain stream water over time. As the article points out, a better way to control wildfires — rather than building and maintaining many acres of expensive bulldozer roads, as the Trump administration is proposing — is to mostly keep cows away from natural streams and waterways and let beavers return to build their dams, turning the steams into greenbelts and natural firebreaks that improve the storage of water in the parts of our country that are too dry to farm without irrigation.
When will people learn that they can’t best Mother Nature and instead must work with her?