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

The Martinez Beavers

Beaver Centerfold


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Yesterday the bookmarks arrived and they are every BIT as cute as you might imagine. Jon ran some over to our buddies at Parks and Recreation and the oohed and passed them around with glee. Yesterday was also very exciting because I suddenly realized I didn’t have the contract for the solar panel, and fell into a state of panic that I hadn’t ordered it this year. What if all the bands were lined up and the sound guy was there and there was NO SOUND! I called them in alarm only to find out that every single representative was at a big meeting and they would call me on monday. I must have sounded so truly forlorn that they made Ryan call me back from the meeting – which I found out was IN HAWAII by the way – YES they would help me, not a problem, but please let the man go back to his hawaii meeting so he can spend the last part of his last weekend at the beach.

Whew.

Good lord. That was close. I know I spoke to someone about something way back in March, but I also know nothing is firm without a contract and they need us to show our event insurance will cover their panel and these things take time. Three weeks should do it. So that’s good.

Meanwhile our friend Kent Woodruff at Methow was being rewarded by a lovely, slick magazine profile in the outdoor clothing store of Filson’s. Even though the head quarters is in Seattle they have a store in San Francisco so I have NO idea why they aren’t donating to the beaver festival, but good for Ken (again), it’s still lovely to share.

Region 6: Planting Beavers, Raising Waters

Beaver ponds store a lot of water. Millions of gallons. And scientists are now realizing that reintroducing the animals to struggling streams is a way to buck a drying trend. This Filson Life is part of Filson’s celebration of the Forest Service and the people of the Pacific Northwest Region of the USFS, Region 6. 
As the Northwest gets less snow, Kent Woodruff says it needs more beavers.

Less snow means less rainfall. Less rainfall means less water for farms and streams – which leads to a decrease in spawning ground and shelter for salmon. Beavers dam streams and streams flood their floodplains, which produces more trees for more dams and provides millions of gallons of water for everything in the vicinity. It even provides shade for salmon.

“One of the things we know is that beavers improve streams,” says Woodruff, a beaver biologist with the Forest Service. “Beavers make things better by adding complexity to streams to enhance everything that needs to happen out there.”

For the past ten years Woodruff has been the driving force behind the Methow Beaver Project, a partnership that relocates problem beavers – those that have dammed up irrigation ditches or felled high-value fruit trees – from private land to mountain streams in the National Forest surrounding Central Washington’s Methow Valley.

“We’re in a very water-limited situation in the Methow Valley,” he says. “So we do this balancing act between the towns, the rural folks, the agriculturalists, and the fish. To find a natural solution in beavers for water storage and temperature moderation, which are critical limiting factors to endangered salmon, is really exciting to what we do.”

After trapping a problem beaver, Woodruff temporarily keeps it at an old fish hatchery that he’s set up with beaver homes. He’s found that relocating beavers is best done with male-female pairs, and he waits until he traps a beaver of the opposite sex before pairing the two at the fish hatchery. He then transplants the pair—with a bundle of sticks and willow switches they’ve been chewing at the hatchery—to a suitable, beaver-free stream in the forest.

“We’ve found that a male-female pair is a lot more sticky than just a lone beaver,” he says. “Two of them are more likely to stay where we put them than just one.”

Half a dozen universities are making plans to use his beaver restoration work as laboratories to answer questions about the role of wetlands in the larger ecosystem. How much carbon does a large beaver complex store? How do beaver ponds contribute to the insect life of a river? How many gallons of water are stored in the spongy soil surrounding a wetland? Interns, graduate students, and Ph.D. candidates from colleges and universities around the Northwest will show up in the Methow Valley this summer to work toward answering those questions.

Woodruff and Johnson estimate that their pro-beaver message reached 2.8 million people in 2015. The benefits of beavers, Woodruff says, are becoming more widely recognized. Biologists in Canada, Mexico, and Europe are interested in the work coming out of the Methow Valley and elsewhere around the region.

“California is very interested in modernizing its approach to beavers,” Woodruff says.

“Washington state is beginning to take similar steps. We’re talking to people in Britain where beavers have been extinct for 600 years, and now in the past ten years they have them in five different places. Idaho has a fledgling relocation program, too. It feels to me like we are just getting started learning where beavers could help.”

Nice review! Wonderful to see beaver benefits emphasized. This is a rugged outdoor clothing profile so they chose the strapping young Ph.D. candidate for the photo, which is foolish because Ken’s very handsome and there are way more mature shoppers than young ones, but never mind. It’s a nice spread with a good focus on salmon and water and I’m very grateful about that. Of course I’m very impatient with ANY article that mentions problem beavers without talking about beaver solutions.

But still.

I confess I was alarmed reading that in 2015 reached their message reached 2.8 million people, because how on earth is that even possible? This meager website gets 10,000 hits a week, and over 10 years that’s maybe 1 million, but how are they so much more visible than we are? What’s WRONG with us?  But then I though they maybe meant through Sarah’s great film, which was wonderful and really allowed a lot of people very quickly to learn the story of why beavers matter.  And they have more supporting players (NGO’s and GO’s) than god. And plus, people are always happier thinking they’re doing good for the environment when they get rid of beavers than when someone tells them to keep them.

But I admit it. I had beaver envy.

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