Conservation through Science under God

Should Oregon ban beaver hunting on federal land?
Nov 11, 2020 09:09 ET

[Reprinted from original]

Beavers are one of nature’s engineers. They can busily remodel their surroundings, damming waterways.

Should Oregon build a dam around hunting beavers on federal land?

Beavers are not endangered. They are not recognized by the state as in need of conservation efforts. But the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission is set to make a decision on Friday that could stop all beaver hunting on all federally managed public land in Oregon. Conservation groups brought a formal request to do so before the commission.

The argument for the ban is fundamentally simple. Beavers create habitat for other species. And if more of that happens, it would be good for the state.

There’s plenty of substance to the argument. It’s some 200 pages long. Conservation groups argue beavers “are a keystone species and ecosystem engineer with the potential to bring large economic, ecological, and social benefits to Oregon fish and wildlife.” They point out beaver hunting would still be permitted on other lands in Oregon. They say the move would be in line with Oregon’s policy that “wildlife shall be managed to prevent serious depletion of any indigenous species.” They argue there would be “100s of millions to billions of dollars in ecosystems services and restoration savings.” And there’s more.

Oregon does restrict beaver hunting. Hunting beaver in Oregon requires a license and it can only be done between Nov. 15 and March 15. There are some areas where hunting beaver is explicitly banned. And it is also banned wherever hunting and trapping is prohibited. Not many people hunt beaver, either, according to the conservation groups. It is less than 164 people.

The commission is not deciding this issue in one meeting. It’s already heard testimony and taken public comment. The staff recommendation is that the commission deny the request, because it says there is insufficient evidence to support the assumptions and argument.

What do you think? Unfortunately by the time you read this, the commission may have already cut off allowing more public comment for its Friday meeting. The deadline is 8 a.m. on Wednesday. But if you are interested, keep an eye on the commission. We don’t expect the debate about the beaver is over.