Volunteer to save beavers, fix flooding

Posted: Sunday, November 18, 2007

We are fortunate indeed to have the Mendenhall Recreation Area in our backyards, including a scenic panorama that features the most-visited glacier in Alaska, fabulous outdoor recreation opportunities and world-class wildlife viewing. Bears, mountain goats and our resident wolf may be the stars of the show, but smaller creatures such as mink, hares, marten, voles and porcupines, as well as several dozen bird species, are equally important members of the area's dynamic, rich ecology.

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The Dredge Lakes beavers in particular provide dependable, accessible and interesting viewing. Discovery Southeast regularly takes student groups to watch them, and many local naturalists, casual hikers and photographers do the same. While these industrious critters do pose occasional challenges, killing them for being themselves seems short-sighted and out of character with the Forest Service's admirably low-key management of the area. It's also a solution that many of us regular users (including, no doubt, the beavers) find objectionable on a number of levels.

We'd like to suggest an alternate method that requires no lethal trapping, while instilling a sense of ownership and community among users of all ages. All that's needed is a little human power and some of the good, old-fashioned volunteerism so abundant in Juneau, as modeled by the group of mostly over-60-year-olds that recently unblocked the Steep Creek culverts, allowing passage of spawning fish and reducing water levels. After several days of follow-up, the beavers have apparently ceased their attempts to rebuild.

There are fewer than five beaver dams (two of them quite small) causing the recent trail flooding issues, and these could be alleviated by a few hours of work by small groups of volunteers, followed by regular maintenance. A public meeting of interested parties, facilitated by the Forest Service, could result in a win-win solution for humans and wildlife.

Since the Forest Service has both authority over Dredge Lakes and a venue, they are a natural choice to host a meeting. But Trail Mix could step forward, too.

Please voice your concern and support for such a meeting by e-mailing or calling Forest Service Wildlife Officer Dennis Chester at dchester@fs.fed.us or 789-6253. This is an ideal opportunity for community organizations and individuals alike to pitch in. It's time to give something back to the recreation area and to the wildlife that enrich our lives.

Sherrie and Nick Jans


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