Tom specializes in environmental policy and economics.
Beavers transform the surrounding ecosystem as few other species do. By felling trees and constructing dams, they shape the forests around them and the location, quantity, and timing of streamflows throughout river systems. In doing so, they can change the value of services humans derive from the ecosystem. Among their many effects, beaver dams:
As scientists gain new insights into beavers' relationship with the ecosystem, decision-makers want to better-understand the economic importance of the services beavers provide.
The Grand Canyon Trust approached ECONorthwest to help tell this story in the Escalante Basin in southern Utah. We collaborated with scientists to describe how beavers affect ecosystem services in the Escalante Basin. We then looked to the surrounding communities to illustrate how people depend on these services.
Each of the services described above is economically important. The people who live in the Escalante Basin spend money to treat water used for drinking, and to store water for irrigation, to dredge reservoirs that accumulate sediment, and to protect property from floods. Encouraging beaver activity has the potential to reduce expenditures on these efforts.
The Escalante watershed also attracts visitors to hike, watch wildlife, and fish in the cool pools of the Escalante River and its tributaries. As beavers build dams and store water, they lengthen the streamflow season, provide more and better wildlife habitat, and improve fish populations. These changes add value to visitors' experiences. They also have the potential to draw more tourists to the area, increasing the level of economic activity in the surrounding communities.
Experts contend that beavers are good for the economy
Salt Lake Tribune. April 19, 2011. Brandon Loomis.
Beavers and bucks
River Network (blog). April 19, 2011. Merritt Frey.