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Saving the DammedWhy We Need Beaver-Modified Ecosystems$
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Ellen Wohl

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190943523

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190943523.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 06 May 2021

June: The Thin Green Line

June: The Thin Green Line

June: The Thin Green Line
Saving the Dammed

Ellen Wohl

Oxford University Press

June, when the snows come hurrying from the hills and the bridges often go, in the words of Emily Dickinson. In the beaver meadow, the snows are indeed hurrying from the surrounding hills. Every one of the 32 square miles of terrain upslope from the beaver meadow received many inches of snow over the course of the winter. Some of the snow sublimated back into the atmosphere. Some melted and infiltrated into the soil and fractured bedrock, recharging the groundwater that moves slowly downslope and into the meadow. A lot of the snow sat on the slopes, compacted by the weight of overlying snow into a dense, water-rich mass that now melts rapidly and hurries down to the valley bottoms. North St. Vrain Creek overflows into the beaver meadow, the water spilling over the banks and into the willow thickets in a rush. I can hear the roar of water in the main channel well before I can see it through the partially emerged leaves of the willows. Overhead is the cloudless sky of a summer morning. A bit of snow lingers at the top of the moraines. Grass nearly to my knees hides the treacherous footing of this quivering world that is terra non-firma. I am surrounded by the new growth of early summer, yet the rich scents of decay rise every time I sink into the muck. I walk with care, staggering occasionally, in this patchy, complex world that the beavers have created. I abruptly sink to mid-thigh in a muck-bottomed hole, releasing the scent of rotten eggs, but less than a yard away a small pocket of upland plants is establishing a roothold in a drier patch. A seedling spruce rises above ground junipers shedding yellow pollen dust and the meticulously sorted, tiny pebbles of a harvester ant mound. I extract my leg with difficulty and continue walking. As I walk around the margin of another small pond, the water shakes. Sometimes the bottom is firm in these little ponds, sometimes it’s mucky—I can’t tell simply by looking through the water.

Keywords:   channelization, elk (Cervus elaphus), moose (Alces alces), nitrate, nitrogen, phosphorus

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