Beaver Protection, Management, and Utilization in Europe and North America

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By the end of the 19th century both beaver species had been extirpated from large portions of their native ranges. The global decline in beaver populations was the direct re- sult of exploitation by humans. Now, at the end of the 20th century, protection, manage- ment, and reintroduction programs, coupled with a decline in the demand for beaver fur and other products, have allowed beaver populations to increase dramatically. Since bea- vers actively modify their local environment their activities can conflict with human land use. Because of this, the beaver, once considered a unique and exotic component of wet- lands, is now often considered a nuisance species. The history, as well as the current status, of beaver populations in Europe and North America provide insight into how con- servation programs work, and into how humans and wildlife interact. The initial plenary lecture of the Euro-American Mammal Congress (July, 1998) was presented by Dr. Michael L. Rosenzweig, a professor at the University of Arizona. Dr. Rosenzweig discussed how humans have used and continue to use natural resources, in- cluding wildlife and wildland. He provided evidence indicating that the current model of reservation conservation could not provide a long-term solution to the human-wild- life/wildland conflict. Dr. Rosenzweig emphasized that what is required is a move away from purely exploitive activities (I would call this exploitive ecology) and the develop- ment of a reconciliation ecology with wildlife.