The Infamous Beaver Dam Dispute
Edited by Rick Archer
The truth of the matter is that the average
citizen really doesn't like government interference
that much. But what people really dislike is
Government Arrogance. Who doesn't have at
least one story to tell about a government agent -
policeman, building inspector, tax man, you name it
- who acted like a complete bully.
My personal favorite story is the time a city water
line got stopped up in my back yard. Normally
I have my yard heavily fenced, but had to allow
access to fix the problem. While the city
repairmen worked to clear the problem, some city
inspector noticed some dried dog poop among my
mulching leaves. He promptly issued a $400
citation for this infraction. Why?
Because he could.
Some people are drawn to authority positions because
they enjoy pushing other people around. Enough
Here is a joke about this exact attitude.
The federal agent said, 'I need to inspect
your farm for your water allocation.'
The old farmer said,
'OK, but don't
go in that field over there.'
representative said, 'Mister, I have the
authority of the Federal Government with me.
See this card? The card means I am
allowed to go WHEREVER I WISH on any
agricultural land, no question asked or
answered. Have I made myself clear? Do
you understand?' The old farmer nodded
politely and went on about his farm chores.
the old farmer heard loud screams and saw
the Water Rep running for the fence and
close behind was the farmer's huge-horned
prize bull. The bull was gaining on the
Water Rep with every step. The Rep was
clearly terrified, so the old farmer
immediately threw down his tools, ran to the
fence and shouted out.....'Your
card! Your card! Show him your card!'
The Beaver Dam Dispute is a
true story that actually follows the same lines as
the joke above - an arrogant government agency
brought to its knees by a clever man. Here's
In July 1997, a Michigan man
noticed flooding on his property.
He traced the problem
back to a dam on a nearby
complained to the Michigan Department
of Environmental Quality.
It took them a while, but they eventually inspected.
Five months later, the agency responded with a
letter to the offending land owner.
Written by David Price,
a Michigan DEQ official,
the tone was quite threatening. Citing the
"unauthorized construction of the dams", the letter
demanded the property owner "cease and desist"
further construction and "remove the offensive dams
under penalty of $10,000 a day"!
The government letter was a comedy of errors.
Not only was it a dumb letter, they didn't even send
it to the right person (It
was sent by certified mail to the wrong man. When
the letter finally reached the correct owner, Mr.
tried to explain to the government that they were
pursuing the wrong person.
He pointed out
didn't build the dams. A bunch
of beavers did.
The Threatening Letter from Mr. Price,
the Government Agent
(Note: To help follow
the story, Red Highlights
have been added by Editor to illustrate the best points)
STATE OF MICHIGAN
Reply to: GRAND RAPIDS DISTRICT OFFICE STATE OFFICE BUILDING
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,
It has come to the attention of the
Department of Environmental Quality that there has been
unauthorized activity on the above referenced
parcel of property. You have been certified as the legal
landowner and/or contractor who did the following
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 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 dams and flooding at downstream locations. We find
that dams of this nature are inherently hazardous and cannot
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
All restoration work shall be completed
no later than January 31, 1998.
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
action, a penalty of $10,000 a day.
We anticipate and would appreciate your full cooperation in
Please feel free to contact me at this office if you have
David L. Price
District Representative Land and Water Management Division
Mr. Stephen Tvedten's Response
(Note: Highlights added by Editor)
Dear Mr. Price:
Re: DEQ File No. 97-59-0023; T11N, R10W, Sec 20; Montcalm
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
First of all, Mr. Ryan DeVries is not the legal landowner
and/or contractor at 2088 Dagget, Pierson, Michigan.
I am the legal owner and a
couple of beavers are in the (State unauthorized) process of
constructing and maintaining two wood "debris" dams across
the outlet stream of my Spring Pond.
While I did not pay for, nor authorize, their dam
project, 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.
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:
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 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
My first concern is - aren't the dam beavers entitled to dam
The Spring Pond Beavers are
financially destitute and are unable to pay for said dam
representation - so the State will have to provide them with
a dam lawyer.
The Department's dam 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 beavers - but if you are going
to arrest them (they obviously did not pay any dam attention
to your dam letter-being unable to read English) - be sure
you read them their dam Miranda rights first.
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 beavers - be aware I am sending a
copy of your dam letter and this response to PETA. If your
dam Department seriously finds all dams of this nature
inherently hazardous and truly will not permit their
existence in this dam State - I seriously hope you are not
selectively enforcing this dam policy, or once again both I
and the Spring Pond Beavers will scream prejudice!
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
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
Written by Rick Archer
Being something of
a rebel myself, I was amused to find a kindred spirit in Mr.
Tvedten. So I poked around the Internet to see what I
Sad to say, all I could find was a series of further mishaps.
Somewhere along the way, the beavers were murdered.
Acts like this remind me that a lot of human beings are
scarcely any more evolved than the animals they destroy.
Eventually Mr. Tvedten started to lose his patience with the
harassment. (can't say as I blame him).
After Mr. Tvedten's letter, the DEQ officials made fools of themselves by pursuing the issue
further. You would think they would have the sense to cut
their losses after they realized that Mr. Tvedten's letter
had started to fly across the Internet as an immortal
testament to their stupidity, but apparently
No one likes to be embarrassed, but Bureaucrats seem to have
the thinnest skin of all, especially the ones who are
morons. So the morons, oops, I mean the bureaucrats, decided to keep the
fight going for at least a couple more years. My guess
is if they were stupid enough to write an letter like the
one above without even visiting the pond to begin with, they
were stupid enough to keep the nonsense going.
There were further rounds of letters,
none nearly as humorous as the one listed above so I omitted
them. I listed some links below if you care to dig
As a summary, I have listed three emails to show where
HERE IS ANOTHER LETTER DATED TWO
Subject: Re: Beaver Dam letter
Date: Thu, 27 Apr 2000 08:57:15 -0400
From: Stephen Tvedten
To: LUIS SALDIVA, DEQ State of
Dear Luis, You are a Dam liar! Please forward to me
immediately any "proof" you have that anyone but the
Dam beaver maintained this Dam!
The Dam neighbor
killed the beavers - or the Dams would not have been
"abandoned". You Dam bureaucrats never can get the
facts straight - there were and are THREE Dams on
this property! Quit your Dam Lying!
Respectfully, Stephen L.
THE FINAL WORD
In the following exchange, in 2001 a woman has contacted Mr.
Tvedten to see what the status was of the story.
Stephen, I just came across your
letter to David Price regarding the beaver dams. It was the
BEST! I found it at the Safe2use site. I recently exchanged
links with your site (Thank-you!) and was doing my nightly
search for more links when I came across this letter. It was
So wonderfully written I just wanted to let you know. Since
it has been 3 years, I was wondering what ever happened to
those dams and beavers? I know it is tough to fight city
hall and was hoping to hear that you won the battle for the
Keep up the excellent work you are doing,
Sincerely, Pat Goodwin
Dear Pat, The man who started this had
already killed the beavers and was worried that their now
untended dams would now break apart and enter his property.
That is how this all got started.
Tom Brokaw made him look like a fool and called him my "Dam
Neighbor" on April Fool's Day a couple of years ago
in an NBC segment.
The State just wants to pretend that this did not happen.
You can fight "city hall" and win - I do it everyday!
Have a great day! Steve
Links I used for this story:
Snopes Urban Legends
Property Rights Research
Plus an email from Milt Oglesby to get
things started. Plus Milt sent in the joke too.
Milt does all the work, might as well give him a little
credit now and then. ;-)
Thanks for reading,