Farm Collector Blogs > Looking Back

Dam Letter

by Sam Moore


Tags: michigan, beavers,

I ran across this a long time ago and thought readers might get a chuckle from it. Allegedly, they're actual letters from and to the Michigan State Department of Environmental Quality, although I rather doubt that even a petty bureaucrat could be this obtuse. The names are fictitious, of course.

Mr. John Q. Downinout, 
10/14/96123 Dirt Rd.,Somewhere, MI 49000                         

Dear Mr. Downinout: 

It has come to the attention of the Department of Environmental Quality that there has been recent unauthorized activity on your property. You have been certified as the legal landowner and/or contractor who did the following unauthorized activity: 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 shows that no permits have been issued. Therefore, the Department has determined that this activity is in violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994, being sections 324.30101 to 324.30113 of the Michigan Compiled Laws, annotated.  

The Department has been informed that one or both of the dams partially failed during a recent rain event, causing debris 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 all such 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 stream channel. All restoration work shall be completed no later than December 31, 1996. 

Please notify this office when the restoration has been completed so that a follow-up site inspection may be scheduled by our staff. Failure to comply with this request or any further unauthorized activity on the site may result in this case being referred for elevated enforcement action. We anticipate and would appreciate your full cooperation in this matter.  

Please feel free to contact me at this office if you have any questions.  

Sincerely,  
Stuff D. Shirt,District Representative, Land and Water Management Division. 

Beaver dam 

The department soon received the following response:

10/28/1996 

Dear Mr. Shirt: 

Re your certified letter dated 10/14/96. First, Mr. John Q. Downinout is not the legal landowner and/or contractor at the address in question. I am the legal owner and a couple of beavers are in the process of constructing and maintaining two wood "debris" dams across the outlet stream of my Spring Pond. While I did not pay for, authorize, nor supervise their dam project, I do not think their skillful use of natural building materials should be termed "debris." I challenge your department to emulate their dam project, as I believe there is no way you could ever match their dam skills, their dam resourcefulness, their dam ingenuity, their dam persistence, their dam determination and their dam work ethic. 

As to your request, I do not think the beavers know that they first must fill out a dam permit prior to the start of this type of dam activity. Are you discriminating against the Spring Pond Beavers, or do you require all beavers throughout this State to conform to said dam request?  

If you are not discriminating against these particular beavers, then I request completed copies of all the other applicable beaver dam permits that have been issued. Perhaps we will see if there really is a dam violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994, being sections 324.30101 to 324.30113 of the Michigan Compiled Laws, annotated. 

Another thing, aren't the beavers entitled to legal representation? The Spring Pond Beavers have no money and are unable to pay for said representation, so the State will have to provide them with a dam lawyer. The Department claims that either one or both of the dams failed during a recent rain and caused flooding which tells me that this is a natural occurrence that the department is required to protect. If you want the stream "restored" to a dam free-flow condition, please contact the beavers. But don't arrest them as they obviously did not see your dam letter – being unable to read. As for me, I am not going to cause more flooding or dam debris jams by interfering with these dam builders.  

If you interfere with the dam beavers, be aware I am sending a copy of your dam letter and this response to the Humane Society. I hope you are not selectively enforcing this dam policy, or both I and the Spring Pond Beavers will scream prejudice! In my humble opinion, the Spring Pond Beavers have a right to build their dams as long as the sky is blue, the grass is green and water flows downstream. They have more dam right than I do to live in and enjoy Spring Pond. If the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection lives up to its name, it will protect these natural resources (Beavers) and their environment (Beaver Dams). 

So, as far as the beavers and I are concerned, this dam case can be referred for more elevated enforcement action right now. Why wait until 12/31/96? The Spring Pond Beavers will be under the dam ice then and there will be no way for you or your dam staff to contact or harass them.  

Being unable to comply with your dam request, I am,  

Sincerely,U.P. Inarms 
cc: Humane Society