Beaver Dam
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The Infamous Beaver Dam Dispute
Edited by Rick Archer
December 2006


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 said. 

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.' The Water 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.

Later, 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 what happened.

In July 1997, a Michigan man noticed flooding on his property.  He traced the problem back to a dam on a nearby stream.  He 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" any 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. Stephen
Tvedten 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)

INTERNET: http://www.deq.state.mi

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 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 be permitted. 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 strewn channel. 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
elevated enforcement action, a penalty of $10,000 a day.

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.


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 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 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: 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 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.

My first concern is - aren't the dam beavers entitled to dam legal representation?

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 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


Written by Rick Archer
December 2006

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 could see.

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 not. 
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 deeper.

As a summary, I have listed three emails to show where things headed.


Subject: Re: Beaver Dam letter
Date: Thu, 27 Apr 2000 08:57:15 -0400
From: Stephen Tvedten
To: LUIS SALDIVA, DEQ State of Michigan

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. Tvedten


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 beavers!

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:

Kats Korner
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,
Rick Archer

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