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Vermont Public’s weekly dose of all things environment.

Out There: Living with beavers

This is the web version of our email newsletter, Out There! Sign up to get our weekly dose of all things environment — from creatures you might encounter on your next stroll, to a critical look at the state's energy transition, plus ways to take part in community science and a roundup of local outdoor events.

It’s Thursday, June 22. Here’s what’s on deck:

  • Vermont wants Monsanto to pay up
  • Tips for your next summer hike
  • A rare flower no one knew was carnivorous 🩸

Enter your email to sign up for Out There
Vermont Public's biweekly dose of all things environment.


But first,

Keeping beavers and people happy

 Illustrated beaver sitting on a dam pipe.
Lexi Krupp
Vermont Public
State biologist Brehan Furfey helped install a device to manage water levels at a beaver pond in the town of Albany, in Orleans County, earlier this month. While she was working, a beaver swam by to check out the commotion.

Beavers are heroes, along with being super cute furballs. There were up to a BILLION beaver dams in North America prior to European settlement (something like 70 beavers per square mile according to some estimates), and all those beavers did a lot of good: They created wetland habitat for plants, birds, frogs, reptiles and fish, plus prevented erosion.

Between trapping and deforestation, by about 200 years ago, beavers were basically wiped out of Vermont. In the meantime, people built roads, homes, and farms where a lot of beaver dams used to be.

Now, as beavers are reclaiming their old habitat, they can run into issues with humans, from plugging culverts to flooding septic systems, or moving into someone’s backyard pond. So to protect our infrastructure and keep our beaver neighbors around, beaver lovers have come up with some creative solutions:

  • ☎️ The Department of Fish & Wildlife gets about 400 calls a year from people and municipalities that are having beaver problems. If they decide to intervene they have two tactics they use:
  • 🕳️ They poke a hole in the beaver dam and put in a pipe through it. That tricks beavers so they can’t patch up the hole but it doesn't destroy the beaver pond. Having a slow leak in the dam lowers water levels by about a foot, which can help with flooding.
  • ⛔ The state also puts up fences around the inlet of culverts to keep beavers from building a dam around an area that needs to drain.  
  • 🚧 State biologists install around a dozen of these flow devices in beaver ponds a year. They've put in more than 300 devices since they started these projects in 2000. Private contractors also do this work around the region.

In other news…

🧪 State sues over toxic chemicals: Vermont's attorney general is suing the agriculture giant Monsanto, alleging the company knew some of the chemicals it made, called PCBs, were harmful to people and the environment. Even though PCBs have been banned since the late 1970s, they still show up in schools and places like Lake Champlain. The state wants Monsanto to pay for current and future clean up efforts. The company says the lawsuit has “no merit.”

⛰️ Hiking hacks: If you’re headed up Mount Mansfield or Camels Hump, you can now check a twice-daily updated forecast from the National Weather Service to see what’s in store for you at the peak. And before you go, be mindful of trail conditions. The Green Mountain Club says heavy rainstorms fueled by climate change make mud season an almost a year round event.

🍁 2 million gallons: That’s an estimate of how much syrup Vermont sugar makers produced this year. It’s less than last year, but about average for recent years. For many producers, the season ended abruptly this spring when temperatures got too warm.

🌄 Conservation set in law: The state enshrined a goal that half of the Vermont land is managed to support biodiversity and sustainable agriculture and timber harvest by 2050. That will start with a statewide inventory over the next year and a half to figure out just how much land is already conserved.

In your backyard

Triantha glutinosa

 An illustration depicting a long green stemmed-plant with purple flowers in front of a stream.
Reed Nye
Vermont Public
These flowering plants eat bugs to get nutrients like nitrogen. That was a big surprise, according to assistant state botanist Aaron Marcus. A related species was first reported to be carnivorous in 2021, and it wasn’t until last year that anyone documented the species trapping bugs in Vermont.

Get out there

🚣 Paddling with a disability: A free, adaptive kayaking outing for anyone who can’t use a standard kayak. You’ll need to register ahead of time for the trip on Friday morning at Lake Iroquois in Chittenden County.

🐞Creepy crawlies: Get down and dirty with scientists from the Vermont Institute of Natural Science on Saturday to survey the Ottauquechee River in Woodstock for small, river dwelling insects that can tell us about the health of an ecosystem.

🔥 Party with fire: What started as a celebration of central Vermont's granite industry has grown to include musical performances, a three mile candlelit walk, and lots of things on fire. Join the festivities in Websterville Saturday night.

🎨 Art to make you think: A new exhibit examining the meaning of shelter at the sculpture garden in Montpelier points to the pressing housing crisis and examples of climate change Vermonters experience every day. It features the work of several artists from across the state.

🌳 Take a hike. And learn how land managers use fire in the dry oak forest. The outing will be led by biologists from the Vermont Center for Ecostudies. They'll be meeting June 29 at the Green Mountain National Forest in Ponwal, in Bennington County.

Enter your email to sign up for Out There
Vermont Public's biweekly dose of all things environment.


Thanks for reading! If you have ideas for events we should feature, critters, fungi or plants you want to learn more about, or other feedback, we'd love to hear from you! Just hit reply to this email.

Credits: Out There is put together by Lexi Krupp, Abagael Giles, Joia Putnoi , Sophie Stephens and Brittany Patterson, with lots of help from the Vermont Public team including graphics by Laura Nakasaka. Special thanks to Tyler Brown, Skip Lisle, Ben Dittbrenner and Aaron Marcus.

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