Public land managers have turned to nature's original bucktoothed engineers to restore a watershed in the Dixie National Forest.

A proposal put forward by the state Division of Wildlife Resources and U.S. Forest Service officials calls for employing 10 beavers to dam off a stream in the Anderson Canyon area of the Pine Valley Mountains north of St. George.By slowing the stream flow, more sediment will collect along the eroded banks, so willows and shrubs can get a foothold and revegetate the area.

"It's a cheap way of doing some pretty effective work, because the animals are doing the work instead of us," said Ken McDonald, a state wildlife biologist.

The proposal would also reintroduce an animal once native to the area, Pine Valley District Ranger Tom Contreras wrote in a letter detailing the plan.

It wouldn't be the first time public land managers have used the industrious critters to fix a problem.

McDonald said it worked on Indian Peak, an area west of Cedar City where the state used beavers in 1991 to stabilize a stream bed.

But "we've used them pretty infrequently," McDonald said. "They do tend to stir up a little controversy. We have to make sure if we're moving in live beavers, we're putting them in places where they're not impacting private property."

While beavers may work well in a natural environment, private land owners get irritated by felled trees and blocked irrigation ditches on their property.