Lessons learned from the lowly beavers of Beaverton

Lessons learned from the lowly beavers of Beaverton



Eric Jay Dolin in “Fur, Fortune and Empire” wrote, “Over time, it is all too common for people to lose touch with their heritage, as the thrill and immediacy of the present crowds out the echoes and lessons of the past. It would be a shame if that were to happen with respect to the fur trade. It is a seminal part of who we are as a nation, and how we came to be.”

Speaking of heritage, Beaverton was once home to the Atfalati native people. Westerners mispronounced their name as Tualatin. The Atfalati village of Chakeipi on the Beaverton and Fanno creeks meant “place of the beaver”. While early settlers called it “Beaverdam” it later changed to Beaverton. As settlers moved west, their hunting and trapping of beavers to near extinction changed the landscape of America.

What past lessons might the lowly beaver teach present day humans regarding climate change? Beavers are a keystone species whose effects are disproportionately large relative to their abundance. They are also ecosystem engineers that can create, significantly modify, maintain, or destroy a habitat. Beavers help maintain the health and stability of their environment. Aside from humans, few animals do more to shape their environment.

By building dams and altering waterways they create extensive wetland habitats. More water is available during droughts and there’s greater carbon storage in peatlands. Their ponds become wetlands removing pollutants like nitrogen into sediments, stabilizing soil loss, and providing space for diverse aquatic plant life and a refuge from wildfires. Slowing water makes room for dragonflies, snails, and mussels. The populations and size of wild salmon and trout increase. Frogs, turtles, waterfowl, and deer all benefit from the lowly beaver.

  • How do you maintain the health and stability of the local community?
  • How do your activities help others flourish?


Rev. Dr. Sybrant serves at Murray Hills Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). For more info, visit us at 15050 SW Weir Road, Beaverton. www.murrayhills.org | 503-524-5230