Because the beaver isn't just an animal; it's an ecosystem!

The Martinez Beavers

A new [John] Day is dawning…

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“Beaver” dams aid fish restoration in John Day River drainage

Ecologists and biologists working in a tributary of the John Day River in northeast Oregon are encouraging the building of dams to restore degraded stream habitat – beaver dams, that is.

 The stream recovery operation has already significantly increased wild juvenile steelhead survival in Bridge Creek as opposed to the control tributary Murderers Creek.

 The researchers from NOAA Fisheries Science Center in Seattle did this by increasing the local beaver population’s ability to maintain long-term and stable beaver dams. The outcome is a healthier stream habitat that is less channelized and has less annual erosion from floods.

Here’s a lovely article about our friends working at John Day, who are making ‘starter dams’ to increase the staying power of beaver dams along this watershed with significant results. Maybe you’re thinking, ” I don’t have any friends at John Day” – but you’d be wrong. Click on the video in the left hand margin (or below) and you’ll recognize the players, including Dr. Michael Pollock who will be presenting on this very topic at our beaver seminar at the salmonid restoration federation conference. He actually grew up in Walnut Creek so he’s an old local. Here he is visiting with me and the dams in Martinez:

pollockBiologists will continue to monitor both the stream’s health and the health of the threatened steelhead in the stream. They are also considering expanding the techniques used in this project to the remainder of Bridge Creek. In the meantime, Pollock is fielding phone calls from interested agencies throughout the West, his crew is producing a how-to manual and they will hold workshops on their techniques in the winter of 2014-15.

 “It’s been exciting to see the number of agencies interested in using beavers for stream habitat recovery,” Pollock said. “It’s an affordable technique and very effective.”

Pollock is one of the key players that was so famous and busy he never wrote me back after all my many emails until our own wikipedia Rick tracked him down and got him to be a reviewer on our Sierra paper. When I was invited to speak at the state parks conference in Yosemite I asked him and Rick to come as well. They both accepted and we drove in Rick’s Range Rover up and back in 24 hours. We drank too much wine and had a glorious dinner at the Tenaya lodge with some overly attentive waiters. The best part of the entire trip was when he showed a photo of a nutria in his talk instead of a beaver. Cheryl and I said nothing but exchanged THAT LOOK which he did not miss. (I dare say he will never, ever make that mistake again.) Here he is with Cheryl and Rick in front of my house after our marathon drive.

P1000097What a good article to wake up to! I can’t wait to hear the updates in Santa Barbara. All people should care about beavers for their own sake. They’re fun to watch, good at what they do and helpful to wildlife. Bur even if they don’t – we might be able to get them to care about beavers for steelhead’s sake.