Those Dam Beavers!
August 9, 2012 10:59 PM   Subscribe

In December of 1997, a Michigan man received a letter from the Department of Environmental Quality informing him that he was prohibited from the 'Construction and maintenance of two wood debris dams across the outlet stream of Spring Pond. A permit must be issued prior to the start of this type of activity. A review of the Department's files show that no permits have been issued. .... The Department has been informed that one or both of the dams partially failed during a recent rain event, causing debris dams and flooding at downstream locations. We find that dams of this nature are inherently hazardous and cannot be permitted. The Department therefore orders you to cease and desist all unauthorized activities at this location, and to restore the stream to a free-flow condition by removing all wood and brush forming the dams from the strewn channel.' He replied: 'Regarding Your Dam Complaint.'

The original letter, hosted on Mr. Tvedten's site. Of course, it didn't stop there. And various overlapping state and local authorities ensure that wasn't the last time the dam beavers were an issue ...


One blogger runs down the development and changes to the letters made, like a game of 'chinese whispers' or 'telephone.'
Snopes!
posted by the man of twists and turns (38 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Dam, son.
posted by jason_steakums at 11:08 PM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Everyone thinks they're a dam comedian.
posted by The Whelk at 11:14 PM on August 9, 2012


"Now, are there any dam questions?"
posted by Rhaomi at 11:21 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nice beaver!
posted by SPrintF at 11:23 PM on August 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


Vogons are slug-like but vaguely humanoid, are bulkier than humans, have green skin, and are mindlessly bureaucratic.
posted by Mblue at 11:40 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Heh, damn and dam sound alike and the government is stupid.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:49 PM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


I had to google "Department of Environmental Quality". Perhaps it's because I'm not from Michigan, but having seen so many other fake internet stories about the excesses of government bureaucracy, that name sounds like the utterly contrived product of an author who didn't do any research.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 11:59 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Government--I heard about the Government and
I went out to find it. I said I would look closely at
it when I saw it.
Then I saw a policeman dragging a drunken man to
the callaboose. It was the Government in action.
I saw a ward alderman slip into an office one morning
and talk with a judge. Later in the day the judge
dismissed a case against a pickpocket who was a
live ward worker for the alderman. Again I saw
this was the Government, doing things.
I saw militiamen level their rifles at a crowd of
workingmen who were trying to get other workingmen
to stay away from a shop where there was a strike
on. Government in action.

Everywhere I saw that Government is a thing made of
men, that Government has blood and bones, it is
many mouths whispering into many ears, sending
telegrams, aiming rifles, writing orders, saying
"yes" and "no."

Government dies as the men who form it die and are laid
away in their graves and the new Government that
comes after is human, made of heartbeats of blood,
ambitions, lusts, and money running through it all,
money paid and money taken, and money covered
up and spoken of with hushed voices.
A Government is just as secret and mysterious and sensitive
as any human sinner carrying a load of germs,
traditions and corpuscles handed down from
fathers and mothers away back.

Carl Sandburg
posted by Mblue at 12:12 AM on August 10, 2012 [13 favorites]


"Bears are actually defecating in our woods!"
posted by iamkimiam at 12:14 AM on August 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


It took almost 6 months to think of that?
posted by chillmost at 12:15 AM on August 10, 2012


Seriously? Placing "dam" before a bunch of words is supposed to be funny? This guy's lack of creativity and low standards for humor are the only (mildly) entertaining thing about his letter.
posted by parrot_person at 12:24 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


If this isn't the time to have fun putting "dam" in front of things, I don't know what is.
posted by brundlefly at 12:27 AM on August 10, 2012 [12 favorites]


chillmost: American style dates. MM/DD/YYYY
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:34 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I checked Snopes on this, certain I'd find a big false on this obvious fabrication.

I was wrong.
posted by happyroach at 12:39 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I guess he wanted to be a resident of dam nation.
posted by mephron at 1:25 AM on August 10, 2012


A Government politician is just as secret and mysterious and sensitive
as any human sinner carrying a load of germs,
traditions and corpuscles handed down from
fathers and mothers away back.

posted by mattoxic at 1:48 AM on August 10, 2012


It's funny (but not at all surprising) that conservatives have appropriated this exchange as an example of the Big Bad Gub'ment run out of control, particularly when Mr. Tvedten is not only very obviously a dam environmentalist but really a dam hippie.
posted by item at 2:18 AM on August 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Everywhere I saw that Government is a thing made of men...

Government = people
Government = stupid
==> people = stupid

Sounds about right to me.
posted by sour cream at 2:55 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's funny (but not at all surprising) that conservatives have appropriated this exchange...

But Tvedten cced PETA! Wouldn't that make conservatives recoil?
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:57 AM on August 10, 2012


It's funny (but not at all surprising) that conservatives have appropriated this exchange as an example of the Big Bad Gub'ment run out of control.

Tvedten may be a hippy, but his site certainly expresses a lot of antipathy for the government as well. These aren't mutually exclusive. He is the kind of person that repeatedly puts "government" and "state" in "quotation marks" if you know what I mean. He fights city hall every day!
posted by Winnemac at 3:55 AM on August 10, 2012


You know what the fish said when it ran into a wall, right?
posted by allkindsoftime at 4:03 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know what the fish said when it ran into a wall, right?

"FUCK AN A, SHIT!! WHO ERECTED THIS GODDAMNED UNAUTHORIZED DEBRIS DAM?! PEGGY, GET ME THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY ON THE PHONE WOULD YA?"
posted by NoMich at 4:18 AM on August 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


In all my time in Michigan, I only ever saw beavers and their dam, once. And that was a few miles in to Wisconsin. Surprised me quite a bit. Nearby is a small lake where I could often be the only human there, on a hot summer afternoon. Helps the whole county only had 7k people.
posted by Goofyy at 4:35 AM on August 10, 2012


You should have seen the letter he wrote when he was falsely accused of oral sodomy and incest.
posted by PlusDistance at 4:40 AM on August 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Collapsing beaver dams are a fairly big problem where I live. When they go they can easily wash out a dirt road. Last year they took out half a highway. God forbid a kid is ever playing downstream.

However, it's almost always as a result of human intervention that they collapse. Beaver dams are ludicrously strong, as anyone who's ever tried to dismantle one (ME) can testify. The farmers around here resort to dynamite, laid by the 70 year old man who runs the tiny hardware store in what is laughingly referreed to as downtown.

When Mrs unSane and I saw the property we eventually built a house on, I always imagine Mr and Mrs Beaver standing at the other end of the field. Each of us turned to our respective spouse and said: "It's perfect, darling".

Probably the fact that it was in the Beaver Valley should have warned us, or the presence of the Beaver Motel and Beaver Gas nearby.

Anyway, thus began the War of the Beavers.

I battled those beavers for years with beaver bafflers and beaver deceivers, all to no avail. I took out dams and was swept away in the resulting tsunami. I even resorted to burning them out. All to no avail. The beavers flourished. The big female would sit in the middle of the pond and glare at you if you dared go anywhere near the lodge. Then the kids moved out and built a second lodge. They flooded the back field and started taking down big poplar and even maple trees. I wrapped trees. I considered a gun and traps but Mrs unSane forbade it. I lost count of the times I got my tractor stuck in the mud of the creek.

I learned one thing. When it comes to beavers, no matter how hard you shake it, the last drop always goes down your leg.

I despaired.

Then one day they simply moved out of their own accord.

I kind of miss them now.
posted by unSane at 5:30 AM on August 10, 2012 [25 favorites]


Seriously? Placing "dam" before a bunch of words is supposed to be funny? This guy's lack of creativity and low standards for humor are the only (mildly) entertaining thing about his letter.

What? Surely the humor drought of 1997 has not been completely forgotten? How desperate we all were in those parlous days.

Anyhoo: I think the "funny" is not in the wording, but in the fact that these are real.
posted by dhartung at 5:40 AM on August 10, 2012


It's funny (but not at all surprising) that conservatives have appropriated this exchange as an example of the Big Bad Gub'ment run out of control, particularly when Mr. Tvedten is not only very obviously a dam environmentalist but really a dam hippie.
You find it funny when conservatives aren't willing to ignore injustice just because the target might be someone they dislike? Weird. I reserve my anti-conservative ire for when they are so willing.
posted by roystgnr at 5:42 AM on August 10, 2012


On all subsequent correspondence - whatever the subject - I'm going to be sure to include the words "cc: PETA". It just makes a letter complete.
posted by bicyclefish at 6:19 AM on August 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Do you remember that book 1491, about how before European settlement there were millions and millions of Native Americans living in quite highly developed societies, but diseases spread in front of the Europeans so they moved west into areas where the native populations had already been almost totally decimated? So they looked around, saw only a very few indians, and thought "wow, so few people, this land is going totally unused!" even though that was totally false.

Today, we are like that with beaver. Pre-conquest, there were hundreds and hundreds of millions of beaver. Trapping almost extirpated them, though the population has rebounded to maybe 10-15 million today. But beaver have an enormous impact on a landscape, changing how rivers flow, the height of the local groundwater table, what trees grow, what the timing of floods is like, and so on. So after a few centuries of trapping, dam removal, and river alterations, we look at our landscape and think "wow, how natural this all looks! The trees, the river, how wonderful!"

But in reality, what we are seeing is what a beaverless landscape looks like. And unfortunately for beaver, we've built our houses and infrastructure and farms mostly in places where adding beaver back into a system wouldn't work. Do you want your house flooded? Road washed out? Sewage treatment plant under water? So beavers are still treated as problems to be removed, despite the enormous ecological benefits they bring.

So the guy's letter is full of the lulz, I guess, but in reality culverts and beaver don't play well together; storm water drainage systems are predicated on no beaver involvement. I doubt he is interested in taking personal responsibility for rebuilding that section of road if it washes out, either.
posted by Forktine at 6:36 AM on August 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


I doubt he is interested in taking personal responsibility for rebuilding that section of road if it washes out, either.

No, I'm pretty sure he'd just invite them to try to get the dam money from the dam beavers.
posted by gauche at 6:42 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Of course this happened in Engler's administration.
posted by The demon that lives in the air at 6:43 AM on August 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


To expand on Forktine's point, even my local conservation authority regard beavers as a problem. In highly farmed areas, often the riparian vegetation is the only corridor for wildlife to move safely from one feeding area to another. Beavers denude this and can end up balkanizing the remaining wilderness areas. Also, the beaver ponds act as big solar heaters for the water and can turn a coldwater creek into a warm water creek, with devastating effects on certain kinds of wildlife the conservationists are keen to protect.
posted by unSane at 7:11 AM on August 10, 2012


Yeah, it's my understanding that in many states, it is always open season on beavers.
posted by gauche at 7:34 AM on August 10, 2012


I got a letter from the government the other day.
I opened and read it.
It said they were suckas.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 11:11 AM on August 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Picture me giving a dam, I said "never!"
posted by maryr at 11:45 AM on August 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


"I think they would be highly offended you call their skillful use of natural building materials 'debris'. I would like to challenge you to attempt to emulate their dam project any dam time and/or any dam place you choose. I believe I can safely state there is no dam way you could ever match their dam skills, their dam resourcefulness, their dam ingenuity, their dam persistence, their dam determination and/or their dam work ethic."


Dam right. Give them enough time, and they'll build a dam you can see from space.
posted by homunculus at 9:10 PM on August 10, 2012


Given that they can read my number plate from space these days, I think that coinage has lost its impact...
posted by unSane at 5:57 AM on August 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


(We have a hundred-foot dam on the edge of our property. In fact there's a series of them -- a whole dam ladder, which you can see clearly in this aerial photo towards the top left of the picture). You can also see the great big beaver pond, about 10 acres of it, behind the last dam.
posted by unSane at 6:05 AM on August 11, 2012


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