Archive for the ‘Beavers and Ice’ Category

BDAs in NWF is a BFD

Posted by heidi08 On October - 14 - 2017ADD COMMENTS

1They made good progress on the fires yesterday (thank god), and were bracing themselves for the winds last night. The death toll has climbed to 36 this morning, with 5700 structures leveled. WP says 90,000 people are displaced and I bet the numbers are even higher. We’ll be coming to terms with the scale of these fires for many, many months and years to come.

In the mean time beavers have been the subject of attention by the National Wildlife Federation. I was contacted by the Vermont office rrequesting use of some photos for an upcoming event they are publicizing with Amy Chadwick in Montana about coexisting with beavers. (Which is just the right message delivered by just the right girl!) They thought Cheryl’s great photos would help promote it and Cheryl was kind enough to share. The announcement would link to this story in the August-September magazine which had escaped my attention entirely:

Beavers as Ecopartners

THE SUGAR CREEK RANCH FLY FISHING CLUB sits at the confluence of Sugar Creek and Scott River in northern California. The river’s cold water feeds the ranch’s eight ponds and lakes stocked full of fat trout and other fish that draw hordes of anglers. But the more important action is happening at the ranch’s unassuming beaver ponds. There, two beaver dams have helped save threatened coho salmon that were struggling to find enough water in the river just two years ago at the height of the state’s record drought. Today, the coho are thriving along with bear, fox, deer and hundreds of birds. “It is kind of a paradise,” says ranch manager Jerry Lewis.

The ranch’s beaver pond is one of many that the Scott River Watershed Council and its partners have encouraged property owners to create in the Scott River Valley to help restore water reserves while creating vital habitat for juvenile steelhead trout, coho and Chinook salmon. The trout and coho grow in the ponds’ still, cold water before swimming down to the ocean to fully mature and then return again several months later to spawn. 

The ponds began with beaver dam analogues, or BDAs. Landowners can build these by pounding a series of vertical posts into a stream or river, interweaving branches through the posts then packing on vegetation and mud to create a dam that pools water. Enticed by the ponds, beavers often move in to build lodges and raise young and will increase the dam’s size and subsequent water retention.

To date, the Scott River Watershed Council has helped ranchers and farmers install eight BDAs in the watershed, and beavers have moved into six of their ponds. “Beavers have greatly enhanced the structures we’ve put in,” says Betsy Stapleton, the council’s board chair. “It has been a really cooperative relationship.” 

Hurray for our Scotts River beaver friends!

A Beneficial Coexistence

“Farmers need to irrigate their land, but beavers can plug up a head gate where water comes off a stream in just 12 hours,” says Stapleton. “They can also dam up a creek near a home or field, which can flood them. And they chew down trees that people enjoy. When we started, we would barely mention the word ‘beaver’ in public. Then the drought hit. That really changed the conversation.”

California’s drought from 2011 to 2016 severely depleted water reserves across the state. When in 2014 segments of the Scott River dried up, the California Fish and Wildlife Department trucked thousands of juvenile coho to areas of the river that had adequate flows and habitat.

Since 2015, salmon and trout are thriving with the help of the new beaver ponds, which expand surface water, recharge groundwater reserves and improve water quality by filtering and trapping sediments and recycling nutrients. Their shaded, deep pools also provide cool refuge for fish and support a wide diversity of wildlife.

NOAA Fisheries biologist Michael Pollock is monitoring the region’s BDAs and found that they have raised water tables up to 3 feet as far as 1,500 feet from the dams. In addition, the BDAs have kept water flowing through fish-filled, downstream side channels all summer long, habitat that previously dried up during that time. Pollock says the positive impacts of the BDAs have reached far further than anticipated. “We didn’t expect that,” he says.

Federal and state agencies, including in California, are considering beavers as conservation partners to restore habitat and bolster its resilience to climate change. Not only do the dams build up water reserves but a series of dams can act as speed bumps to slow flooding, and they can even sequester carbon.

Several western states, including Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Colorado, are using BDAs or reintroducing beavers to help restore local ecosystems. For Montana’s Lolo National Forest, the National Wildlife Federation and its affiliate Montana Wildlife Federation are working with the Clark Fork Coalition to help the U.S. Forest Service craft a plan to build BDAs and restore beavers. This would help boost water reserves in riparian habitats at risk from reduced snowpack and increased droughts, which would restore habitat for threatened bull trout and other wildlife. “Beaver are low-cost workers, but they can provide huge benefits,” says Traci Sylte, the forest’s soil, water and fisheries program manager.

Hurray for beavers! It’s wonderful to read this rose-colored a collection of sentences like that but we all know that there is plenty of resistance still from the all kinds of agencies and property owners towards beavers. It’m always impressed with the work being done with BDA’s, and Michael Pollock is the very best kind of cheer leader to have on this team. In fact, I just got word that he’ll be opening the lecture series on tuesday evening at BioJams at the Olympic National Resource Center at the University of Washington.

ONRC Evening Talk: BIOJAMS Tuesday, Oct. 17, 7 p.m.

Dr. Pollock has been studying forest, stream and wetland ecosystems for over a decade. During this time he has engaged in a diverse set of scientific studies including: the influence of disturbance and productivity on biodiversity patterns in riparian corridors, the influence of beaver habitat on Coho smolt production and ecosystem function, the historical patterns of riparian forest conditions in the Pacific Northwest, and the importance of riparian forest to maintain stream habitat. Dr. Pollock will be speaking to us about his current research on the use of BIOJAMS — Working with beavers to restore salmon habitat.

How much do you wish you could be there? I’m just thrilled that all those students and professors will be inspired by the beaver gospel delivered by the very best teacher. We sent Michael a beaver tie after they were donated to us for the auction one year. I wrote him that this would be an excellent time to wear it.

Skipping to the rescue

Posted by heidi08 On October - 12 - 2017Comments Off on Skipping to the rescue

Well, the wine country fires are nearly as deadly as the Oakland Hills fires now, and have taken more homes and plenty more acreage. The entire town of Calistoga was evacuated last night and the two massive sidewalls of fire around Napa are probably going to meet up today, which is terrible news for our friends and the Tulocay beavers. To top it all off Cal-fire just announced a red flag warning for much of the entire state, which means the whole thing will get worse before it gets  better.

(I was vaguely remembering this morning how much people said they hated 2016, but they are going to remember it with fondness after this horrible year.)

DSC_7858The good news is that we heard from Rusty Cohn of Napa yesterday who is not missing but on vacation. We also heard from Susan Kirks of PLAN who said that Petaluma is terrified but holding steady. And our plucky little Martinez beavers have decided to forge ahead and rebuild one of the dams that were recently ripped out. Since there is fresh mud on the smallest dam, we can assume they must have repaired the larger too, even though we can’t see it. So we will take heart from their resilient spirits and fiddle on while Rome burns.

How one man tricked beavers and saved them — and roads — in the process

Knee-deep in muddy water, Skip Lisle wrestled with a metal fence, a key component of his invention, the Beaver Deceiver. On the morning of Sept. 29, deep in the woods of northeast Maine, Lisle pieced together the simple, durable device that he designed with one goal: trick the beavers, and in doing so, save the beavers.

CaptureConstructed on the upstream end of a road culvert, the device would prevent beavers from damming up the culvert and flooding the gravel road, something that is extremely common problem throughout the state.

“You hear about beavers being industrious and loving to work,” Lisle said. “That’s a myth. They’ll always choose the easiest damming site.”

Where humans see a gravel road with a culvert in it, beavers see a dirt dam with a tiny hole in it. As water rushes through the culvert, it calls to these natural builders, and their instinct is to “repair the dam,” block the culvert with sticks and mud so the area will flood, expanding their habitat. It’s what beavers do … unless you can somehow stop them.

That’s where the Beaver Deceiver comes in.

Maine is really a hotspot of beaver IQ at the moment. In the past two years I’ve covered stories as progressive as I’ve ever seen, and several that are equally backward – with hunting and trapping listed  as the only solution.  There is clearly some controversy going on there. But I’m hopeful with articles like these that beaver attitudes are moving in a good direction.

Growing up in rural Vermont in the 1970s, Lisle witnessed how beavers can rapidly change a landscape to benefit many other species of wildlife. On his family’s land, beavers constructed a dam across a waterway, creating a pond that expanded over the years, attracting a wide variety of animals to his backyard.

“There were so many animals using it, different species, and that stuck with me my whole life,” Lisle said.

When Lisle was bout 15 years old, the local beavers started damming up a culvert on a town road that ran through his family’s land. He realized that he needed to stop them or the road would soon be flooded. If someone else took action, the beavers would likely be killed. So he took charge and got creative.

truck“I actually stole some of my father’s old garden fence,” Lisle said, “and just built a crude fence in the culvert. And that’s when it all began.”

Constructing a fence around a culvert is the first step in building what Lisle would later call a Beaver Deceiver. But that invention was years in the making.

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in geography from Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, Lisle worked for ten years in construction, mainly doing painting and carpentry work. He then returned to school to earn a master’s degree in wildlife management from University of Maine in Orono. His thesis was on beavers, and more specifically, the wetland habitats they create.

“[Wildlife management] has always been my calling,” Lisle said. “I just didn’t answer it at first.”

Ahhh Skip! What a great article about a great man with a vision. Thanks for giving Maine such a lovely view of  how and why to do this. And thanks for being our hero when we needed it. If folks need proof that it works, give us a call. Martinez was happy to function as a ‘test case’.

Now there are two more fantastic beaver stories on my waiting list I’m eager to get to. Assuming I’m not too stricken by fire-grief tomorrow to do my job, tune in for a great story of saving urban beavers in Port Moody BC.

Send Review Copy Here, please.

Posted by heidi08 On October - 6 - 2017Comments Off on Send Review Copy Here, please.

I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about this new text book, which was slated for release in August of this year. Dr. Carol Johnston is the professor from South Dakota who recently used those historic maps from Morgan to show that beavers build in the same areas for 150 years. The book looks very interesting. Minnesota Ag just reviewed their copy but where is mine?

Beavers Shape Northern Minnesota Ecosystem.

Beavers have probably been more influential than humans in altering the Kabetogama Peninsula ecosystem in northern Minnesota, writes South Dakota State University Professor Carol Johnston. She examined how beavers have impacted the peninsula which is home to Voyageurs National Park near International Falls, Minn., in her newly released book, “Beavers: Boreal Ecosystem Engineers.”

“This book is about a place and the science of how beavers shaped it,” said Johnston, who has been conducting research on beavers for 30 years. She wrote eight of the book’s 10 chapters based on her National Science Foundation-funded beaver research.

The text book is listed as a pricey 137.00 at Amazon, but shows the following drool-worthy pages of contents. It takes a second to load but trust me it’s worth it.  There isn’t a single chapter I’m not eager to read.  It’s maddening to think of all the text books I shelled out major cash for and never really read more than I needed to, (or frankly, even that) and this one that is sooo delightful-looking now that I’m not a student!