The US West doesn’t exactly overheat – partly because it feels also hot. Amidst near-constant wildfires, droughts and heatwaves, an area once teeming with wildlife and native animals is now losing a staggering amount of ecosystem.
However, researchers at Oregon State University have a bold proposal to help enrich these habitats: Fill them with beavers and coyotes.
In one Article published on August 9 in the magazine biological science, The OSU team proposed using federal land in 11 states to establish a new wolf and beaver habitat system in a process called the Western Regeneration Network. The plan will cover approximately 500,000 square kilometers across Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
In their new paper, the OSU team wrote that wolves and beaver species play an important role in native ecosystems. For example, the gray wolf is an apex predator that naturally destroys populations of elk that would otherwise reproduce out of proportion and eat native plants. Meanwhile, beavers cut down trees to build dams, which help fish habitats thrive and maintain water flow during times of drought.
“It’s an ambitious idea, but the American West is experiencing an unprecedented period of converging crises that include prolonged drought and water scarcity, extreme heat waves, wildfires, and droughts. major fires and biodiversity loss,” said William Ripple, an ecologist at OSU and lead author of the paper, said in a press release.
The study’s authors also note that the plan will only work if people also target one of the most common threats to native wildlife in the American West: cattle ranching. This practice often impedes forest fire management, degrades waterways, and makes it difficult for wild animals to thrive. As a result, the team proposes a 29% reduction in the area of land allotted for livestock grazing from a total of 985,000 square kilometers of federal land in 11 states.
It should be noted that 2% of meat production comes from federal grazing permits in the United States, so the cuts won’t have much of an impact on the industry as a whole. However, the study’s authors recognize that the proposal is still bold and ambitious. To address these issues, participation from communities living in the West, along with policy makers at large, is needed.
That means we need a federal economic and social compensation program for license waivers, said Robert Bescheta, a former professor of forestry at OSU and co-author of the paper. grazing. “Rework is most effective when engagement concerns for all stakeholders are considered, including Indigenous peoples and their governments.”
However, if and when that happens, we could see native habitats evolve over time as a result. Let’s just hope the wolves and beavers don’t grow out of control, lest we have to grapple with our new furry overlords.