by Barry Kent MacKay, Director
(a version of a blog posted by Born Free USA: http://www.bornfreeusa.org/weblog_canada.php)
Last night The Beast crossed the border, spreading its hot destruction into another province. “The Beast” is the name of the giant wildfire that erupted in northern Alberta weeks ago and, growing as I type, now has consumed over 423,000 hectares (1,633 square miles) of boreal forest, and forced the evacuation of nearly 90,000 people while causing massive destruction of infrastructure and the deaths of uncounted thousands of wild animals as it makes the air toxic and defies Herculean efforts to bring it under control.
And it is, sadly, tragically, only one of hundreds of fires raging in forests throughout so much of the continent, their numbers increasing as global climate change results in an ever warmer climate, drier in some places, wetter in others, but, more rapidly than even the most pessimistic research indicated, heating up the planet.
And so sadly, as Canadian news media understandably fell over itself reporting on the Fort McMurray fires, in India it was reported that the forests of the Himalayas were on fire (see: http://mashable.com/2016/05/02/india-uttarakhand-forest-fire/#WcNsg_zlrgqO). Similar reports come out of Australia with depressing frequency.
What is of great value, what is needed, in our woods and forests, is water, reservoirs of water, high water tables, ponds and impoundments.
But we are not a rational species. If we were we’d listen to scientists like Glynnis Hood and Suzanne Bayley, whose published research, and that of other scientists and studies, shows us that there is a hedge against the drying effects of global climate change and its ability to trigger massive, deadly fires.
And that is the beaver!
When beaver fur was widely used by the fur industry, populations of the species were supressed by trapping. At the time the fur industry claimed that trapping did not affect beaver population sizes. That was the propaganda promoted by the fur industry and wildlife management agencies when I was young.
They lied. With decline in fur values, beaver populations are recovering. This can cause problems, as when, building dams, beavers block culverts or cause flooding, or even chew down valuable trees. Most such conflicts can easily be resolved while protecting the beavers, a valuable ally in protecting the environment (see: www.animalalliance.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Beaver-Manual_May-2016.pdf). So what did the province of Saskatchewan do? They allowed a “beaver derby”, a 40-day contest in which 601 beavers were killed (out of an annual, province-wide kill of about 38,000). They argued that the beaver deceivers our manual recommends can’t be used out west because of different soil types. Nonsense. Problems of that nature, if real, are simply something to be solved. The Beast is now loose in Saskatchewan.
There are no beavers in India or Australia. We are so fortunate, yet blunder ahead with our deadly ways.
The argument was made that these were beavers that would otherwise have been killed and wasted, that many carcasses are left to rot.
I don’t doubt that, but this is the 21st century and it’s past time that we stop demonizing wildlife and start learning to co-exist. The work by Hood and Bayley, in 2008, showed that beaver were the single most important factor in the amount of open water in the very place where it is most needed – the place where the hot Beast prowls, burning its way through our staggering wall of wilful ignorance, illuminating our base, self-destructive, stupidity.
There have always been beavers, fires, and forests. What is new is our modern levels of technology, connected to unbearable hubris as we impose our collective madness on a world increasingly under siege, increasingly losing its ability, ironically, to support us and our demands upon it. As we look into the glowing eye of The Beast, it is our reflection that stares back.