Claim: The state of Michigan threatened local beavers with a $10,000 per day fine for failing to remove their dams.
Example: [Collected via e-mail, May 2001]
STATE OF MICHIGAN
Reply to: GRAND RAPIDS DISTRICT OFFICE STATE OFFICE BUILDING 6TH FLOOR
350 OTTAWA NW GRAND RAPIDS MI 49503-2341
JOHN ENGLER, Governor
DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY
HOLLISTER BUILDING, PO BOX 30473, LANSING MI 48909-7973
RUSSELL J. HARDING, Director
December 17, 1997
Mr. Ryan DeVries 2088 Dagget Pierson, MI 49339
Dear Mr. DeVries:
SUBJECT: DEQ File No. 97-59-0023-1 T11N, R10W, Sec. 20, Montcalm County
It has come to the attention of the Department of Environmental Quality that there has been recent unauthorized activity on the above referenced parcel of 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 show that no permits have been issued.
Therefore, the Department has determined that this activity is in violation of
Please feel free to contact me at this office if you have any questions.
David L. Price
District Representative Land and Water Management Division
Dear Mr. Price:
Re: DEQ File No. 97-59-0023; T11N, R10W, Sec 20; Montcalm County
Your certified letter dated 12/17/97 has been handed to me to respond to. You sent out a great deal of carbon copies to a lot of people, but you neglected to include their addresses. You will, therefore, have to send them a copy of my response.
First of all, Mr. Ryan DeVries is not the legal landowner and/or contractor at
As to your dam request the beavers first must fill out a dam permit prior to the start of this type of dam activity, my first dam question to you is: are you trying to discriminate against my Spring Pond Beavers or do you require all dam beavers throughout this State to conform to said dam request? If you are not discriminating against these particular beavers, please send me completed copies of all those other applicable beaver dam permits. Perhaps we will see if there really is a dam violation of
My first concern
that either one or both of the dams failed during a recent rain event causing dam flooding is proof we should leave the dam Spring Pond Beavers alone rather than harassing them and calling them dam names. If you want the dam stream “restored” to a dam free-flow condition — contact the dam
As for me, I am not going to cause more dam flooding or dam debris jams by interfering with these dam builders. If you want to hurt these dam
In my humble opinion, the Spring Pond Beavers have a right to build their dam unauthorized dams as long as the sky is blue, the grass is green, and water flows downstream. They have more dam right than I to live and enjoy Spring Pond. So, as far as I and the beavers are concerned, this dam case can be referred for more dam elevated enforcement action now. Why wait until 1/31/98? The Spring Pond Beavers may be under the dam ice then, and there will be no dam way for you or your dam staff to contact/harass them then. In conclusion, I would like to bring to your attention a real environmental quality (health) problem: bears are actually defecating in our woods. I definitely believe you should be persecuting the defecating bears and leave the dam beavers alone. If you are going to investigate the beaver dam, watch your step! (The bears are not careful where they dump!) Being unable to comply with your dam request, and being unable to contact you on your dam answering machine, I am sending this response to your dam office.
Stephen L. Tvedten
Origins: In July 1997, one of Stephen Tvedten’s neighbors noticed flooding on his property and traced it back to a dam on Tvedten’s stream. The neighbor complained to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) on
local Michigan DEQ official, was blunt: The “construction and maintenance of two wood debris dams across the outlet stream of Spring Pond” was “unauthorized” because “a permit must be issued prior to the start of this type of activity.” The letter ordered Stephen Tvedten, the land owner, to “cease and desist” under penalty of “elevated enforcement action.”
Mr. Tvedten responded to the Michigan DEQ’s demand with the now widely-circulated “dam letter,” in which he pointed out that the “debris dams” he had been ordered to remove because they were constructed without permission from the state of Michigan were actually built by beavers. The DEQ later claimed they were fully aware the “debris dams” were beaver dams; the issue, they said, was that the beavers who built them had long since abandoned the dams, but
abandoned beaver dams on the discharge end of the natural pond. Such an activity falls under the jurisdiction of The Department conducted an on-site inspection of the dams in August of 1997, accompanied by a Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist, the Pierson Township Supervisor and the complainant. The tenant’s actions, and a threat to the welfare of the downstream complainant prompted our correspondence of December 1997, instructing the tenant to cease and desist all illegal activity and to restore the stream to its prior condition. The owner of the property took issue with our action, and responded with his own version of the situation. It was this correspondence that has been circulating in the internet. Luis Saldivia
The letter concerned an enforcement action directed to a tenant on property surrounding Spring Pond, which is located in Pierson Township, Montcalm County, Michigan. The tenant was observed by the downstream complainant, and has since admitted to the complainant, that he artificially built up, and maintained two
Streams, of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act,
Grand Rapids District Supervisor
Land and Water Management Division
abandoned beaver dams on the discharge end of the natural pond. Such an activity falls under the jurisdiction of
The Department conducted an on-site inspection of the dams in August of 1997, accompanied by a Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist, the Pierson Township Supervisor and the complainant. The tenant’s actions, and a threat to the welfare of the downstream complainant prompted our correspondence of December 1997, instructing the tenant to cease and desist all illegal activity and to restore the stream to its prior condition. The owner of the property took issue with our action, and responded with his own version of the situation. It was this correspondence that has been circulating in the internet.
For his part, Mr. Tvedten claimed that the dams had been “abandoned” because a neighbor had killed the beavers (then filed a complaint with the state because he was concerned that the untended dams would break apart and enter his property) and that no one but the beavers had ever maintained them. And contemporaneous accounts of the brouhaha quoted a Michigan DEQ spokesman as saying the agency hadn’t performed an inspection before firing off their December 1997 letter to
The department dropped its investigation after an inspection by a DEQ employee. “It probably would have been a good idea to do the inspection before we sent the notice,” Silfven said.
Ken Silfven, public information officer at the state Department of Environmental Quality, said
The department dropped its investigation after an inspection by a DEQ employee.
“It probably would have been a good idea to do the inspection before we sent the notice,” Silfven said.
After some wrangling the agency ultimately dropped the issue, but not before Stephen Tvedten found an inventive way of quickly pointing out both how ludicrous and humorous the situation was. In a way dusty legal language never could, such a letter serves to drive home the silliness of Michigan DEQ’s intractable posturing. The beavers are likely still ignorant of how close they came to being fined $10,000 a day for dam living expenses.
Barbara “in Michigan, transforming from guardian of the law to giardia of it just took a touch of beaver fever” Mikkelson
Last updated: 2 July 2015
Mastio, David. “The Strange Tail of the Outlawed Michigan Beaver Dam.” The Detroit News. 5 April 1998 (p. B5). Associated Press. “State Gives Beavers Cease-and-Desist Order.” 31 March 1998. The Wall Street Journal. “The Spring Pond Beavers.” 3 March 1998 (p. A18).