A tale of two states

   Posted by heidi08 On June - 15 - 2013

I have always said that Washington State is the beaver-IQ capital of the world, and here’s a lovely reminder. I have been trying to chose the ‘best parts’ of this article to excerpt, but its entirely perfect so its hard to whittle down.

City eyes solutions to beaver-caused dam flooding

Beaver dams along the Deschutes River in property owned by Yelm, Olympia and Lacey are raising the water levels of the river and Lake Lawrence. The cities are currently looking at solutions that mitigate the impact to property owners while protecting the beavers.

Beavers on the property have historically built dams on the river, said Yelm City Administrator Shelly Badger. The cities can’t just go out and remove them, she said.

It wouldn’t make much sense to do so anyway, if beaver dams are removed, the beavers typically rebuild them, Winecka said. If the beavers are relocated, others move in.

Relocating strategies turn into “an ongoing project that will never end,” he said. “At some point it makes sense to use them … for ecological benefits.“They do have a place in the ecosystem and unfortunately there’s sometimes conflict with people.”

Beavers often create excellent habitat for a variety of species, he said. He said the beavers could help the salmon restoration taking place at the Deschutes farm.

Don’t you want to move to Washington right now? Honestly, I think I should be buried there. The article, which you should read in its entirety, goes on to discuss the futility of ripping out dams and the value of flow devices. And no, I didn’t write it. We love Washington.

For contast there’s this letter and response from Michigan. You can see that some folks on the ground are starting to get it, but the Department of Natural Resources still hasn’t a clue.

Wetlands destroyed with dam removal

The management of Fort Custer State Recreational Area recently made a destructive decision to remove a large beaver dam, which had been in place for years, on a little stream flowing out of Eagle Lake.

The more than eight feet long beaver dam had effectively created a beautiful and important wetland in a wild, undeveloped area north of Eagle Lake. This protected wetland was the home of numerous wild creatures.

Spring peepers and frogs filled the air with their interesting, unique songs. Blue heron, swans, geese, ducks and sand hill cranes, along with other numerous birds, nested among the reeds and along the shore of this large shallow lake. Fish and water creatures thrived in this special area that supported many plants, drawn to the moist environment.

Visitors who came to Fort Custer to swim, fish, hike, canoe, bike and picnic were treated to a beautiful, natural overview of this lovely wetland from the road. A hiking/biking trail took you around the lake and provided a close up look at the incredible engineering feat of the beaver’s stick dam.

This beautiful site is now gone, drained away and replaced by a large mud flat with dying water lilies and dead shellfish and plants. The wild creatures are also gone, their environment destroyed.

Joanna Learner

Beautiful letter Joanna, since Battle Creek is 10 miles away from Fort uster, I’m assuming you’re the  artist featured in this article a while back.

One of Joanna Learner’s most recent works, completed this year, is called ‘Mother Nature’s Response to Global Warming.’

Joanna Learner is an artist-of-all-trades.

The 73-year-old Battle Creek resident is an accomplished sculptor, painter, jeweler, photographer and potter. Much of her work centers on nature, which makes sense since despite living all over America, Learner’s home has always been the crossroads of art and nature.

I’m sorry about your wetlands and beavers Joanna, but very pleased that you wrote this letter speaking up about what was a capricious decision by a DNR that apparently misunderstands the words “Natural” and “Resources”. The paper was protective enough of their friends to give the powers that be a chance to respond to the letter before it was published, and run their rebuttal last. But still you made your point very well. Just remember, beaver advocates beware…don’t ever assume that the playing field is level.

Without knowing more, I can tell you that if that dam did fail naturally, it might put Dickman Road at risk. Additionally, I can also tell you the beavers have done a lot of tree damage on the north side of the road, and that may also be a contributing factor to the decision to remove the dam.

I would suggest you contact the manager of the Fort Custer Recreation Area to discuss your concerns, and I am sure he will listen, and also tell you the issues he is working with. Again, thanks for letting us comment before publishing your letter.

Larry Pio
President, Chief Noonday Chapter
North Country Trail Association

That’s right. The beavers needed to be trapped because they were eating trees. That almost never (always) happens. And we couldn’t wire-wrap them because it’s hard and looks icky and we just make trails through nature – we don’t actually protect it. If Joanna’s last name is “Learner” Mr. Pio’s first name must be “SLOW” because Michigan is obviously half a world behind Washington when it comes to understanding the trickle-down benefits of beavers. Still its a fine start and a rung on the ladder to better beaver understanding, so good work. Keep climbing.

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Last night’s Kitwatch 2013 was not what we hoped, but not without compensations. It was high tide and getting higher when we arrived. The pollen all rushed upstream and clumped into the eddy. This made me laugh when we were waiting. Doesn’t that pond turtle eye look like a velociraptor lurking in the muck?

The city has been a good sport and let the tree remain, and the beavers have been working on it and took a few branches while we sat there. It’s a big tree though, still living, and there’s a lot more to go.

The otter that visited on tuesday has obviously been hanging around all week and the beavers have gotten a little more used to him. There was no tail slapping but no still no kits until almost nine. We saw approximately three adult beavers, both using the overpass on the gap and the ‘underpass’ around the dam under the bank.


The little otter used the gap, the underpass AND the pipe to get over the dam. All my photos are blurry but you get the idea.

Every time the beavers approached the otter ducked into the filter of the flow device, where he and the fish could swim freely because the beavers were too big to come bother him. It reminded me of playing tag as a kid and breathlessly calling out “BASE”!

Just before 9:00, when it was too dark to film and the lights were reflecting in the water, a beautiful kit slipped through the underpass to work on the tree. Immediately voices raised up a register and we all said a unanimous “AWWWW”. We waited, but just one had come by the time it was too dark to stay. Obviously everything is right in beaver world.

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