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

The Martinez Beavers

Fish Lobby for Beavers


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Nobody told me there’d be days like this in beaverland. Wow. The past two days have been exploding with good beaver news but this takes the veritable cake. Guess who the center for biological diversity is suing now? And for WHAT?

Capture

Lawsuit Aims to Protect Salmon Harmed by Government Beaver-killing in Oregon

PORTLAND, Ore.— Two environmental organizations today filed a formal notice of intent to sue a federal program that kills hundreds of beavers a year in Oregon. The lawsuit aims to hold the program, Wildlife Services, accountable for killing beavers because the animals are essential to protecting threatened and endangered fish like salmon and steelhead.

Wildlife Services, a part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, kills the beavers with traps, snares and firearms. Beavers are Oregon’s official state animal.

Numerous studies show that beavers benefit endangered salmon and steelhead by creating ponds that provide fish with natural cover and food. Despite these well-established ecological benefits, Wildlife Services killed more than 400 beavers in Oregon in 2016. The extermination agency even killed beavers in counties where endangered aquatic wildlife rely on beaver ponds for survival.

“Killing beavers in Oregon just one year after federal fish experts announced that beavers are essential to providing high-quality habitat for salmon is just perverse,” said Nina Bell, executive director of Northwest Environmental Advocates. “If this state is committed to saving salmon, we have to be equally committed to preserving the remaining fraction of beavers that historically lived in Oregon.”

NO FOOLIN’. I heard nothing of this in the pipes and everyone I’ve talked to is slapping their foreheads. That we weren’t warned isn’t a huge surprise because CBD tends to forage on their own and act like the only team on the field. For this particular lawsuit they’ve teamed up with the Northwest Environmental Advocates. Their letter of intent clearly lays out the legal basis for the suit, explaining that when an animal is listed on the Endangered Species Act as salmon and steelhead are, and ANY federal agency is going to do something that affects their habitat they are required to mitigate the action and warn those involved. And since there are decades of evidence that trapping beavers threatens salmonids they have failed in this responsibility for years and years. Read for yourself.

When a species has been listed or critical habitat designated under the ESA, all federal agencies—including APHIS-Wildlife Services—must ensure in consultation with the Services that their programs and activities are in compliance with the ESA. 16 U.S.C. § 1536(a)(2). Specifically, section 7(a)(2) of the ESA mandates that all federal agencies “insure that any action authorized, funded, or carried out by such agency . . . is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered species or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of [critical] habitat of such species.”
Now that seems pretty clear cut, doesn’t it? I’m sure that WS has lots of ways to justify their actions but I can imagine some smart judge ruling that the evidence shows that removing beaver is a threat to salmon and they’re required to engage in mitigation when they do so. Like build BDAs or pay a fine. Can’t you?
 
The entire document is well prepared with a few jarring exceptions. It has the requisite shocking photos of dead beavers in traps or piled on trucks (which won’t do much in court), and isn’t careful about language enough for my tastes. (That paragraph alone spells “ensure” two ways without explanation) but its a HUGE shot across the bow, and every one from Michael Pollock to Ann Riley to Michael Callahan wrote me VERY interested in this yesterday. The reference section is thorough, indeed.
Here is their list of endangered species that beaver removal affects.
  1. Salmon, Chinook Snake River spring/summer-run ESUOncorhynchus Salmotshawytscha
  2. Salmon, Chinook Upper Willamette River ESU Oncorhynchus Salmotshawytscha
  3. Steelhead Upper Willamette River DPS Oncorhynchus Salmomykiss
  4. Salmon, coho Oregon Coast ESU Oncorhynchus Salmo kisutch
  5. Steelhead Middle Columbia River DPS Oncorhynchus Salmomykiss
  6. Sucker, Warner Catostomus warnerensis
  7. Trout, bull Salvelinus confluentus
  8. Trout, Lahontan cutthroat Oncorhynchus clarkii henshawi
  9. Frog, Oregon spotted Rana pretiosa

I can see California and Washington watching eagerly to see how this plays out, and follow suit down the line. I know APHIS is the favorite target for CBD, but in our state CDFG allows the killing of far more beavers than are taken by APHIS alone. Is there any way that this suit could affect the number of depredation permits issued to private landowners or cities because of threat to salmon? Or Red legged frogs? Or migratory birds? Or WATER?

You can see the list grow.
 

And if that isn’t exciting enough for you, how about beaver benefits on Utah Public Radio? Robert Edgel is working with the Wetlands Initiative to install BDAs until the real things comes along.

Beavers are what biologists call an “ecosystem engineer.” That means that they change the environment they live in, and help maintain critical habitat for other species. Beaver dams raise the water level of a stream which causes the stream to flood during spring runoff. The flooding allows grasses and forbs to grow and the much needed insect population to thrive.
Oh and I saw this yesterday on FB and wanted to share. Suzi Eszterhas, the wildlife photographer that filmed our beavers a few years back and is a friend of the festival, is currently in Africa, facing brand new hazards on her current assignment. This time it’s a opportunistic meerkat who has decided to use her as a lookout.
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