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Vandals have destroyed seven beaver ponds on private property, blasting away what landowner Wallace Ott says it took the animals 40 years to create.

Ott owns 265 acres north of the Tropic Reservoir where the beavers had built their houses on East Fork Creek.Having worked for the U.S. Forest Service and in ranching, Ott said he has learned more about protective land management and the importance of the environment for future generations. He refers to the beaver ponds as a "phenomenon" that caused the flow of the creek to slow, "one of Mother Nature's ways of controlling stream bank erosion."

That's why the 85-year-old rancher was particularly disturbed by the destruction by the trespassing vandals.

Although the ponds were apparently destroyed several months ago, Ott and Forest Service officials are continuing to investigate. They asked for anyone with information about the vandalism to come forward and report it.

Explosives were definitely used to dislodge the dams, and someone may have heard the blasts, Ott said.

While Ott still hopes for recovery, he believes it will take a long time and may occur in another area. Because the stream banks were frozen when the trespassing and vandalism occurred the beavers were forced to move to a higher elevation.

Ott reported a few of the animals have been rebuilding in the stream but not in their former numbers. He recently reforested some of the area with 200 seedling trees.

Meanwhile, during the rebuilding period, once lush stream banks will go without water and the stream will flow relatively uncontrolled. Diversions of the creek that fed adjoining pastures may not be revived.

The stream ultimately feeds to ranches and farms as far away as Sevier County. Downstream water users have reportedly expressed concern about the expanding beaver dams, some claiming their water supply could be diminished.