Beaverpalooza & Propaganda

Well, it’s been a banner week here at team beaver. With Kate Lundquist and Brock Dolman of Occidental Arts and Ecology Center’s WATER Institute, I’ve been traveling to some incredible places and meeting incredible folks—we’re calling the trip Beaverpalooza.

Along the way, I picked up my backstop business cards. The Kevin Swift Business Card_Business Cardreal ones are being made from hand-peeled birch bark by Steve Nartowicz of Paper Stone Printing in Massachusetts. Really nice guys, using old-school letterpress technology, and they thought of it first, darn it!  First up was a course given in Weed, entitled “Restoring Beaver to Restore Rivers”. Which is as succinct and accurate a title as I’ve come across—it perfectly encapsulates my thinking on the matter. Want your river to recover? Get beavers in there, help them out, and watch the magic happen.

Packed with groundbreaking research, tough questions asked and answered, lots of humor, and a genuine sense of pulling together, it was a great day. I only squeaked in at the last minute due to a cancellation, and it was packed. So if you want to attend one of these deals (next one’s in Alaska!) you’ll want to pretend it’s Burning Man and snatch up a ticket as soon as they’re on sale. In fact, it was so wall-to-wall beaver wonkery that none of us got a single photo.

From there, after a very cool tour of Bel-Campo’s ranch in the Scott Valley, we went here:DSCN4644

Just outside Fall River Mills is some of the most incredible bird-watching anywhere. This is direct from Brock, who’s a bird-nerd of the very DSCN4604highest order.

With our trusty captain and host Sky Snyder (on the right) piloting, we spent our boat ride to and hike around Ajumawi amazed by the crazy biodiversity in this valley. Full-disclosure: the beavers are just a small part of the story.

And what a story it is. Land- and water-grabs by mega-corporations back in the day, a million gallons a minute pouring up out of the ground from who knows where (Shasta? Lassen? impossible to say with so many lava tubes criss-crossing the subterranean landscape), a possibly dying town, secretive billionaires buying up giant old ranches, attempted fracking just upstream of some of the cleanest water on earth (yes, really—it’s been tested again and again)—it was like a trip to another planet. One inhabited by some of the most welcoming, down-to-earth people you’re going to find. This place is absolutely worth a visit!

In the evening Brock and Kate gave a presentation followed by some spirited Q&A , and we all stuffed ourselves at a prime rib dinner benefiting the Fall River Valley Parks Department. They’re creating a park in town from old PG&E land, and it’s going to be gorgeous—give ’em a thumbs up!IMG_0014



It was hard to leave the valley, and we did it anyway—rolling north to Ashland where I’ve been doing a last-minute thrash to clean up a Brock Dolman original design and get our stickers together. We’re selling them as a fund-raiser, Beaver Sticker Finalalong with the coolest hats ever—they’ve got this same logo on the front.

Since it was the fur rush that brought people to California in the first place, and the state animal is extinct, I propose that the state flag be changed to better reflect the importance of beavers.

The conference is held in Canyonville, OR at the Seven Feathers casino. It’s quite an event. Beaver nerds from all over the world sharing their insights and inspiration, struggles and successes. We drank deeply from the well, presented what we’d learned, and headed home exhausted. Truly, the perfect trip.

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