Documentary brings out ‘The Beaver Believers’ in viewers at the Swaner EcoCenter
What: “Beaver Believers”
When: 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 5
Where: Swaner EcoCenter, 1258 Center Drive
Cost: $7 per person; free for EcoCenter members
Hunter Klingensmith and the rest of the Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter staff want to clear up some misconceptions about beavers and help people understand that beaver dams aren’t built just to flood basements and areas of recreation.
The staff wants to show how these dams increase biodiversity and the complexity of the ecosystem with a screening of Sarah Koenigsberg’s 2018 documentary, “The Beaver Believers,” which will start at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 5, at the EcoCenter.
Koenigsberg is an award-winning filmmaker, photographer and educator whose work focuses on stories of art, environment, and community in the American West, and her film is not a typical scientist-driven documentary, said Klingensmith, the environmental nonprofit’s visitor experience coordinator.
“It’s an upbeat film about resorting the North American beaver to watersheds of the West that leaves viewers feeling hopeful,” she said. “It’s a wonderful story that focuses on a funny group of activists.”
One of the main characters is a woman who is a hairdresser, who, for the past 20 years, has been humanely trapping and relocating beavers that have caused issues in residential areas, according to Klingensmith.
“She finds new places where the beavers will benefit the area and live well,” she said. “You really see how much she loves the beavers.”
The film also gives viewers ideas of how they can become beaver advocates, Klingensmith said.
“We don’t have to be one of those long-time educated scientists, who have studied beavers for years, to have an impact on their ability to survive and improve our ecosystems,” she said. “We just need to know more about them and learn how important they are.”
Klingensmith was introduced to the film through Utah State University, which oversees the Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter.
USU scientists have been immersed in beaver research, and the EcoCenter has installed some beaver dam analogs on the 2,000-acre preserve.
These analogs mimic the beavers’ ecological benefits that include improving water and water-centered habitat quality, Klingensmith said.
“We thought it would be a great fit here with all the beaver-related things we have been doing to get beavers back into the wetland,” she said. “They are a keystone species that can improve habitat.”
Scientists have only really seen the positive impact beavers have been making on ecosystems, Klingensmith said.
“They used to be so abundant in North America, but when fur trapping started, they were almost wiped out,” she said. “Now, as they have been coming back from that brink, it’s been interesting to see how they change the landscape.”
Beaver dams improve the resilience of local watersheds, which absorbs some of the impact of climate change, Klingensmith said.
“The areas that have dams take on extra snowmelt and rain in a natural, time-release cycle,” she said. “The dams hold water longer, and that means there is more water for plants, animals and humans.”
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