Archive for the ‘Creative Solutions’ Category

Legacy

Posted by heidi08 On March - 26 - 2017ADD COMMENTS

Finally! The article about our beaver tenure came out! Of course it arrived the moment after I posted yesterday, but it’s perfect for our only-good-news-Sunday. It’s also a well written article  by Martinez resident Sam Richards. (Turns out he lives next-door to the house where I grew up – because Martinez!)  It is accompanied by Susan Pollard’s wonderful photos and I don’t sound as horrible as I was worried might happen, but I’m never happy when Luigi talks about feeding beavers with a stick. If you want to see the video where I look positively slagged you are going to have to click on the link to find it yourself. I manage one good line at the end, anyway.

A decade of beavers (mostly) in Martinez

MARTINEZ — It started in 2007, when downtown Martinez citizens noticed Alhambra Creek was flowing slow, and that trees along the banks had been gnawed down to little points. The furry, buoyant culprits were elusive at first, but their first dam of sticks, leaves and mud near Marina Vista Avenue told the, er, tail.

After winning an early fight over their very lives, given concerns about downtown flooding, the beavers went from cause celebre to cause for adoration. There were (and are) “Martinez Beavers” T-shirts and bumper stickers, and the 10th annual Beaver Festival will take place in August.

“Who had even heard of beavers in town before?” said Heidi Perryman, president of the nonprofit Worth a Dam group. Someone she met literally walking down the street told her that beavers lived a few blocks from her Martinez home.

“It’s actually pretty common, it turns out, but I didn’t know it then,” said Perryman, whose preservation efforts have helped give the local beavers a dash of national notoriety, and even some international interest, given the recently rejuvenated efforts to reintroduce Eurasian beavers in England, where they had been extinct since the 1500s, killed for their pelts (and as an acceptable edible substitute for fish during Lent).

“It’s been both a feel-good and a do-good story for Martinez,” said City Councilman Mark Ross, an early champion of the beavers. The rodents themselves have, by and large, done well in the creek; the creek’s ecology has indeed improved, say environmentalists who credit the beavers; and Martinez has become known for something beyond Joe DiMaggio, John Muir and the Shell oil refinery.

A feel good story for Martinez! Thank you for that quote Mr. Ross, I think I’ll put it in my city grant application. It’s nice to see the story remembered in such detail. I sent the reporter a copy of our newsletter which prompted him to think about it. Like pretty much everyone, he had no idea ten years had passed already.

At Luigi’s Deli, about a block from Alhambra Creek, a wall is packed with photos of people owner Luigi Daberdaku has met over the years. Most of them, he said, came downtown to find the beavers.

It didn’t take long for the beavers to win his and others’ hearts. Daberdaku fed them apple pieces — on a long stick. “I saw what the teeth did to the trees; what could they do to my hand?”

At a November 2007 meeting at Alhambra High School, David Frey of Pleasant Hill, a maritme consultant, suggested Martinez city engineers build a diversion around the beaver dam so the beavers don’t have to be relocated. The “beaver deceiver” built the next year accomplished just that. Dan Rosenstrauch/Staff archives

Daberdaku didn’t support downtown property owners who initially wanted the beavers gone. Neither did most who spoke at a rowdy November 2007 City Council meeting at Alhambra High School, where everything from moving the beavers to embracing their tourism potential to renaming the high school sports teams from the Bulldogs to the Beavers was discussed. Many invoked the name of a famous environmentalist son: “What would John Muir do?” One woman said, “We don’t want to be known as a refinery town that kills beavers, right?”

Former Martinez mayor Harriett Burt said learning the science of the beavers changed her mind. “It raised awareness about the creek environment in general,” she said recently, “and it’s been a good thing.”

Good Harriet! And Bad Luigi! I remember the night we caught him feeding apples with a stick and told him to stop. I hoped that was the only time. But that’s what happens when an entire city raises beavers. Not everyone is a good parent. The reporter even talked to Skip, which I’m sure amused him.

800px-Skip_Lisle_Preparing_to_install_flow_device_on_Alhambra_CreekBut the beavers’ real stay of execution may have been the “beaver deceiver,” a water bypass pipe under a dam, installed by Vermonter Skip Lisle in 2008. Designed to fool beavers into thinking they’re successfully damming a waterway, the pipe “secretly” carries water under the dam to prevent flooding.

Lisle still marvels at his Martinez assignment. “I was building a beaver deceiver, and there were throngs of people there, media, and helicopters overhead. It was unique.”

Perryman and the Worth a Dam group have kept beavers in the public eye, even when they were absent from Alhambra Creek. Beavers’ images adorn downtown murals at one creek crossing, and on a “tile bridge” downstream with children’s depictions of the beavers. The Martinez Beaver Festival, an intimate gathering at its 2008 beginning, now draws hundreds to the small patch near the Amtrak station that some call “Beaver Park.” For two years, a group from Oakland led by a city environmental stewardship analyst took the train to Martinez for lessons on how beavers renew urban streams.

Worth a Dam has also inspired other beaver champions. Caitlin McCombs found that group’s work while looking for help saving beavers near her home in Mountain House, near Tracy. McCoCAITLINmbs then started the MH Beavers preservation group.

“I never knew before that beavers serve as a vital keystone, and that they promote an overall healthier environment,” said McCombs.

Caitlin! What a wonderful quote! We are so proud to have been part of your V.I.B.E. (Very Important Beaver Education). She won’t be joining us for earth day this year because she has a conference to attend for college, and we will miss her. But I feel that we helped her raise the awareness in Mountain House and she will think differently about beavers for her entire life. That makes me entirely happy.

By October 2015, the beavers were no longer deceived by the black pipe and built new dams downstream before leaving altogether soon after that. Some of the 24 Martinez kits had died, and others moved on. The original mother beaver, with a new younger mate, left, too.

But Perryman and others were overjoyed when, on March 5, a beaver was seen in the creek near downtown. It’s been seen at least twice since, and photographed at least once.

Does this mean they’re back? With three verified sightings, Perryman says yes.

Then again, were they ever really “gone?” While registering for a marathon recently, Councilman Ross said he was from Martinez. “The guy … said to me, ‘How are those beavers?’ Everywhere you go, the legacy of the beavers remains.”

Beaver legacy! That’s what we have. Of course., I’d rather have the actual beavers, but hey, it’s way more than most cities ever get.  Thank you Sam for another fine reminder the beavers promote a city’s good nature. And thank the beavers for being such great sports for a decade even though the city installed a wall of metal through their lodge. What a crazy, beautiful way to spend a decade of your life!


CaptureTime for some lovely donations to the silent auction. This week’s treasures come from Litographs in Cambridge Massachusetts. They are a remarkable business I happen to love because they turn favorite literature into wearable art. Literally. The entire text of a beloved book becomes a shirt, card, poster, tote or scarf. Catcher in the Rye, Scarlet Letter, Jane Eyre, Hamlet, The Princess Bride, classic or contemporary.

We founded Litographs because we had a vision of bringing our favorite literature off the page, onto your walls, and into your wardrobe. We believe in sharing the power of books with more people.

This is the entire text of Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” which they generously gave beautifully matted and ready for framing.

moby dickLong ago I had a conversation with owner Danny Fein about possibly working with the now-public-domain text “In Beaver World” by Enos Mills. While he wasn’t sure this was a project they would tackle any time soon, he personally made this for our event. Look closely because that is the entire book. Thank you Danny and friends at Litographs! For this beautiful addition to our silent auction.

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Spoiled for Beaver Choice

Posted by heidi08 On March - 23 - 2017ADD COMMENTS

Some days there is so little beaver news that I am left sorting through my ragged thoughts and trying to find something new to say about them. This week has been a beaver explosion, so I can barely keep up. First there is the smart new beaver page out offered by Esther Lev of the Wetlands Conservancy and some graduate students who accepted the beaver challenge. You will have fun browsing the projects. Use the link to visit the site which connects to each project. I’ll let them describe the ‘zine’ themselves.

During the 2017 Winter Term, eight graduate students from the Master of Urban and Regional Planning, Master of Fine Arts, and Master of Environmental Science and Management programs at Portland State University engaged in a study of beavers in the Pacific Northwest.  The question was whether better understanding the beaver could help us understand more about the culture, identity, and character of the Pacific Northwest, particularly for those of us engaged in planning and other activities with and for communities in the region.

The project had two components.  First, each student identified a topic associated with beavers, and developed a research paper that explored that topic.  All of those papers are posted here for your use and enjoyment.  During the term we read Frances Backhouse’s Once they were Hats, her very informative and engaging book about beavers in North America.  Thanks to Esther Lev, Wetlands Conservancy Executive Director, and Sara Vickerman Gage, we were able to spend a morning discussing the book with Frances Backhouse.  We gratefully acknowledge the importance of both Frances’ work and her presence in the class with us.  If you are interested in and/or care about beavers, do read her book!

Second, each student used their paper as the point of departure for creating pages for a class “zine” about beavers.  A zine is a short, self-published, and mostly hand-crafted magazine.  Usually combining words and images, the zine form attempts to both transmit information to and engage the imagination of the reader.  Preliminary research in Portland revealed hardly any zines about or featuring beavers.  We aimed to fill that void, at least in part.

3 screenTWC is who had me talk in Portland last year and is responsible for the art show “Beaver Tales” that is in its second venue. They are doing beaver-work wonders. I am thrilled that they’re on the scene and that all these students will remember beavers in their masters training.


A second exciting development came from our beaver friends in the Czech University of Life Sciences. They recently completed the English translation of their ‘living with beavers’ guidebook. There is a lot of great info on management and history, so I would take some good time to browse. There’s a great discussion of tree protection and flow devices, as well as some pretty creative solutions for preventing bank burrows. Enjoy!

Capture

The Sound and the Parry

Posted by heidi08 On March - 13 - 20172 COMMENTS

Parry Sound is in Ontario Canada directly north of New York. It is famous for having the deepest freshwater seaport in the world and various hockey achievements. This morning it has decided to offer a pleasingly accurate beaver article with some very nice photos. Enjoy!

The industrious beaver is not afraid of hard work during the winter

PARRY SOUND SIDEROADS AND SHORELINES — Winter is the time of year when many wild animals living in the Parry Sound area have adapted to escape and wait out the heavy snowfalls and dropping temperatures. Bears hibernate in cosy dens, squirrels have built nests and stashed food away, and frogs have dug into the lake bottoms and drastically reduced their temperature. But the industrious beaver continues to be quite active during winter until the lakes freeze over completely, and even then this animal can be seen busily repairing any damage to its lodge or dam.

Beavers are completely adapted to an aquatic existence and look quite awkward when slowly waddling on land where they are vulnerable to coyotes and other predators. Their front paws contain claws that can easily manipulate twigs to chew the inner bark of branches – their primary food source. In the Parry Sound area, their favourite wood is the aspen tree but they will also eat ferns, mosses, dandelions, dogwood, and aquatic plants, to name a few. 

The resulting dam sets in motion an entire alteration to the ecosystem. Hence, beavers are considered a “keystone species” (one that plays a unique and crucial role in the way an ecosystem functions. Without keystone species, the ecosystem would be dramatically different or cease to exist altogether). The building of dams modifies and creates a dramatic change to the surrounding environment. The backwater flooding from the dam floods the lowland near the creek; trees die creating an opening in the forest canopy; aquatic plants and shrubs soon develop, making a favourable habitat for waterfowl, herons, moose, amphibians, fish, insects, muskrats, otters and a score of bird species. Their activity purifies water and prevents large-scale flooding.

Over a period of time the food source runs out and the beavers move on; the dam breaks and eventually a meadow forms, creating habitat for an entirely new group of species. And thus, the vital chain of evolution around a beaver pond continues.

A few years ago, the television program The Nature of Things featured a show entitled “The Beaver Whisperer” outlining the efforts of a few Canadians who have studied and/or worked with beavers, giving an in-depth account of the beaver.  The Parry Sound area is home to many beavers and if you are lucky enough to see one around twilight, watch and observe the complex behaviour of this fascinating animal. 

Nice to read that Jari Osborne’s great documentary is still making an impact! (Although it was called the Beaver Whisperers as in more than ONE). And nice to see even a brief discussion of beaver benefits from that neck of the woods.  They need all the allies they can get. I’m going to assume, that even though they’re very clever, the beaver in that photo isn’t balancing a aspen log on its back. I’m pretty sure the log is just laying in exactly the right place on the ground behind him. Although that would be quite a feat if it were possible. Think about it, how would the beaver even get the log there in the first place?

I think it’s one of those photo placement victories, like someone photographed pushing the tower of pizzaa over, or a baby holding up the moon. But it had me confused for a while, I admit. Thanks for the mystery!

Baker City Goodies

Posted by heidi08 On March - 6 - 2017Comments Off on Baker City Goodies

Baker City Oregon is in the upper right hand corner of the state on the Powder river, which flows into the Snake river. Like Martinez it was settled early when the Short line railroad made it a stop, and is the county seat. By 1900 it was THE stop between Salt Lake City and Portland. It’s Main street looks eerily similar to ours. It even had a large Catholic population and has Cathedral because of it. Let’s think of them as a ‘sister city’.

Baker has a smaller population now than Martinez, and hasn’t sprawled like we did. Probably because it’s bordered by the Wallowa mountains that don’t take kindly to freeways. As luck would have it, that means it isn’t too far from famed USFS District Hysuzannedrologist Dr. Suzanne Fouty. Who happened to get very interested because there were some urban beaver sightings reported in this historic town.

Suzanne contacted me this weekend because she wants to use my talk to help teachers get on board with a student project that would let the children “adopt” the beavers, learn about them and sand paint trees etc. We had a nice conversation about her wish to get folks as interested and excited about the beavers as they were in Martinez.  I can’t think of a more magical combination for success than an interested hydrologist, some enthusiastic teachers and an army of child guardians. Can you? Then I found this article and realized the whole thing was already a done deal – with a sympathetic press to boot.

By JAYSON JACOBY

Beavers in Baker City

Homeowners along Powder River are learning to protect their trees from the nocturnal animals. Larry Pearson sacrificed a healthy quaking aspen last summer to their insatiable incisors, but he bears no real grudge against beavers.

“Personally I like seeing them around,” said Pearson, who has livedfor 33 years in a home beside the Powder River in north Baker City. Well, not exactly “seeing.” Pearson has seen several beavers outside the city limits, but he’s not yet spotted one of the rotund rodents near his home on Grandview Drive.

That’s to be expected, given that beavers are largely nocturnal. “I can tell when they’ve been in my yard, though,” Pearson said. Even when the animals don’t leave blatant evidence – it’s pretty hard not to notice when a 14-inch-diameter aspen in your backyard has been gnawed down – Pearson said he can usually find the muddy patch in his grass where the beavers climbed from the river’s bank.

Fortunately, protecting trees from beavers is no great ordeal, Pearson said.

“You have to put wire fencing around virtually everything,” he said.

A homeowner whose tree was chopped down by an unexpected beaver and his first comment to the press is “wire wrap it!” Have I fallen asleep? Am I dreaming? IMAGINE if the Contra Costa Times or the Gazette had a section about how to protect trees from beavers. Whoa, I’m getting dizzy, I need to sit down.

That’s what the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) recommends as well, in its “Living With Wildlife” pamphlet, which is available online at www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/living_with/beaver.asp

Actually, landowners have a few options with beaver-proofing, said Brian Ratliff, a wildlife biologist at the ODFW office in Baker City. Wrapping tree trunks with metal flashing is effective, he said.You can also use welded wire fencing, hardware cloth, or multiple layers of chicken wire.

Regardless of the material, you should wrap the tree to a height of at least 4 feet, Ratliff said.

“When beavers stand on their tails they can reach pretty high,” he said. If you choose chicken wire or fencing, you should leave a 6- to 12-inch space between the cage and the tree trunk, because beavers might try to wedge their teeth through gaps in the wire to get at the tree (this isn’t a problem, obviously, with metal flashing).

You should also reinforce the cage with rebar stakes or other supports, as beavers, which average 40 pounds at adulthood, are capable of collapsing flimsy wire barriers. To protect a large area rather than individual trees, ODFW recommends building a fence, at least 4-feet high, made of welded wire fence or other sturdy material (chicken wire is too flimsy).

I like to think of myself as a generous woman who only wants the best for others. But sometimes, when I read an article like THIS published a full 10 months before Suzanne even got interested and involved, before the school children even circled the wagons, or the town pushed back, I get crazy JEALOUS.

Some people have all the luck!

Baker city, you have started the footrace with a 10-mile lead. Already your papers are sympathetic and your affected citizens are cool-headed. You have interested scientists inches away that will help you move forward. And you of course, have us in your corner. With all the help you could possibly ask for.

I believe, Baker City, if you can’t save these beavers, no one can.

Pearson said he didn’t notice any signs of beaver activity on his property until a few years ago.That coincides with ODFW’s experience, Ratliff said. “In the past two years or so we’ve started to get more reports about beavers, and to see more signs of their presence here in town,” he said.That’s not especially surprising, Ratliff said.

Beavers live along the Powder River both upstream and downstream from Baker City.

“Beavers are very good at migrating both overland and along waterways,” he said. “And the Powder River in Baker City is pretty good habitat for them, minus the fact that it’s through town.”The river’s relatively flat gradient and low velocity are ideal for beavers, Ratliff said. (One reason the animals build the dams for which they are renowned is to slow fast-moving streams; deep ponds protect beavers from predators, and give the animals underwater entrances to their dens in the stream bank.)

Ratliff said it’s not clear why beavers have only recently colonized the river through town in significant numbers. His theory is that the beaver population in the river outside the city limits has grown enough that young beavers are dispersing to less-crowded habitat.

In any case, Ratliff believes beavers can co-exist, in relative harmony, with people.

For one thing, beavers don’t as a rule stray far from the river; they’re not going to start gnawing at your home’s siding, for instance.When, as in Pearson’s case, beavers do munch on trees on private property, the solution – wrapping or fencing trees – is neither complicated nor especially costly.

“It’s really a neat opportunity to have urban wildlife,” Ratliff said.

Pearson agrees. He would, though, prefer that private property owners have more flexibility in dealing with beavers that cause damage. City ordinances prohibit residents from trapping or shooting beavers. State law prohibits residents from live-trapping beavers and moving them elsewhere.

Okay, now things are going to get REALLY unbelievable. Are you sitting down? I just want you to be ready for the shock, because it could trigger a heart attack or something. Take a deep breath, and think of it as a Disney movie. Sweet and a little too idyllic to believe. Ready?

Tom Fisk, the city’s street supervisor, said workers have had to move several beaver-chewed trees that fell across the Adler Parkway over the past few years.Crews used to haul the trees away, but recently they’ve just sawed the tree into chunks and spread the pieces along the river’s bank.

“We figured if we took away the tree the beavers would just take down another one,” Fisk said.

“It hasn’t been such a big problem that we’re looking at other options,” he said.Protecting trees with fencing, for instance, would hardly be practical, considering the river runs for more than two miles through town.

“There’s a lot of trees,” Fisk said.

surprised-child-skippy-jon

What kind of groovy, laid back, reasonable town administrator says ‘well, there’s a lot of trees?’ Here in Martinez we held their feet to the fire for 10 years, were on fricking national news and on TV in the UK and our city manager is STILL ripping out the willow stakes we plant because he doesn’t want to encourage them.

Dear Suzanne, something tells me you’re going to do just FINE on this project. Baker’s going to celebrate beavers, children are going to learn and classrooms are going to thrive. Your creek will be filled with otters, frogs and heron. And heyy, maybe a Baker Beaver Festival is in your future soon?

making an armybeaver army

Sometimes a donation begins with a smile

Posted by heidi08 On March - 3 - 2017Comments Off on Sometimes a donation begins with a smile

One of the best parts about being forced to beg for beaver delights in the silent auction  is connecting with folks around the world whose hearts have been inexplicably touched by beavers. They created whatever they created because of this and they are delighted to meet another human in the world who’s worked for them too. They are inspired by our story, and I am reminded that good people exist in the world. It’s a perfect storm of goodness.

Capture4Case in point: MK Carving of Abbotsford British Columbia. He doesn’t even think he can donate because his pieces are usually custom made, but Mori Kono was so nice about  beavers and supportive of our work he gets a mention. And you will understand RIGHT AWAY why I wrote. He calls this enchanting piece “Oops!”.

Capture2Capture1

Capture3How much do you wish you could climb these stairs every night? Who ever he made this for must lead an enchanted life. Come to think of it, we might actually know them. Do you think it was Glynnis Hood or Michael Runtz? Or maybe some evil executive for the Hudson Bay Company? I imagined whoever it was named their stair guardian. Do you think they pat every night on their way to bed? I’m pretty sure I would. I wrote him that I had thought I was so clever because when I made the ‘manger’ for my beaver creche I had amused myself by adding a few chew marks. I couldn’t believe someone else had the same idea and executed it so delightfully!

Beaverstock final logo 2016Another recent connection came from Castoro Cellars in Paso Robles. They had donated to us many times over the years, but had recently stopped which I was very sad about. I’m still on their mailer and I got the notice that their very popular “Beaverstock” concert extravaganza which had grown so much over the years had received a ‘cease and desist letter’ from the attorneys of the real “Woodstock” and they were told to change the name OR be sued.

Lawyers are good at making petty indignation seem threatening so they were looking for a new name. Hmmm, I mulled over the dilemma for a few moments and then broke into a grin. I immediately wrote the owner that there was only ONE sensible solution.

Instead of BeaverSTOCK call the concert BeaverSTICK!

The owner wrote back last night much amused and suffice it to say we get our donation. Thanks Castoro Cellars!

beaverstick

 

Happy Mistakes

Posted by heidi08 On March - 2 - 2017Comments Off on Happy Mistakes

One of the artists who donated to the silent auction (Sara Aycock) sent tiny little business cards that were SO adorable I had to go see about designing our own. Turns out they are ‘mini’ cards designed by MOO, about half the size of a regular card. Right now you can design 100 for under 20 and chose a different back design for EVERY ONE. I ordered the cheapest kind just to see if I liked them.

cards So I picked four different designs with three each of Cheryl’s great photos on the back. They arrived yesterday and were AMAZING – but there was a mistake on the logo. I wrote them and they’re reissuing for free. Which means we have 100 adorable unusable business cards to use as an art project. Hmmm…

Now I’ve been trying to think up our Earth day art project and hadn’t yet hit on an inspiration. It’s the beavers 10th anniversary in Martinez and I wanted it to be special. But of course not too complicated for kids and volunteers and not to previewexpensive for us. And nothing we’ve already done before. I already came up with a giant card folks can sign wishing them Happy Anniversary. Wasn’t there something that could be done with these perfect little photos?

LOCKETS!!! Little photos of things you love go in LOCKETS!!! A little locket kids make themselves…and can wear on a string around their necks at the event so everyone can see them. One side could be a photo of our most beloved beavers (beautifully printed on card stock from my failed cards), and the other side should be a photo of something that represents Martinez….since the two are “Married” forever more…..

Beavers and Martinez…hmmm…(You know I considered a photo of the mayor just because I’m troublesome that way)….but I really wanted something more wholesome.

Something that represents Martinez…and it’s for an Earth day celebration at John Muir’s House….and he’s the greatest conservationist and beavers have been called the original conservationists….I think we have  a match made in heaven!16938893_10208977203533577_6242861908722332437_n

earthday locket

We even have all the supplies left over from other art projects! Glue sticks, scissors, card stock, string, and lovely keys to your heart. I’m so excited I’m wearing mine right now. This is the perfect way to say “Happy Anniversary” to our beavers. And its all because of a lucky mistake.

Which the beavers kind of are anyway.

happens

 

Beaver Music to our Ears

Posted by heidi08 On March - 1 - 2017Comments Off on Beaver Music to our Ears


Regular readers of this blog know I don’t pull out the ‘Star Wars award ceremony’ for just any beaver article. I did it when the New York Times finally decided to read the memo and report that beavers matter (even if the author did first write that beaver live in the dam). And I do it for this – I’m pretty sure this is better. I’m tearing up so often it’s hard to be sure. This is the kind of glorious article you need to GO READ FOR YOUR SELF in its entirety. But I will serve up some highlights to whet your appetite.

CaptureBetter with Beavers

by Rob Rich

Beavers seem to know that healthy waters need wood – big wood to scour deep pools, dead wood to fertilize them, racked-up wood to complicate the flow. The intricacies of their dams, lodges, and mazing canals surpass all belief, in spite of – or rather, because of – the ways they are riven with a wild porosity, in need of constant maintenance. With all this industry and adaptive efficacy, beavers are deserving “ecosystem engineers,” even as they compel more expansive definitions for this very term. We typically engineer ecosystems by neatening and bleakening them with inert structures, often at the expense of other species. But the organic approach of Castor canadensis actually increases biodiversity, including direct contributions to over 25 percent of herbaceous plant species along forested rivers and streams.

In this respect, beavers are also “keystone species” that have disproportionately large impacts on their neighbors, including us….The discerning eye can look at maps of the Pacific Northwest and pick out lands where beavers came before. Some remain fertile wetlands, others are now pastures with “good” groundwater, still more are wet floral meadows tucked away in the woods. Our most livable and lovable landscapes are often ancient beaver ponds, first cleared, composted, and irrigated by beavers long ago. For the many happy bovines we see amid the longest-green grass, we can thank a beaver. For the homes that are flood-buffered or firewise with nearby ponds, we also can thank a beaver. And if you drink water in Bellingham, Washington, it’s been stored and filtered by wetlands upstream. At least for this, we can surely thank a beaver. 

Sniff. I love everything about this article. But the bold sentence I love especially. If you love the way your pastures or farmlands look, thank a beaver. If you love that your home is above the flood plane, thank a beaver.  The only thing this article needs is better photos. That scruffy muskrat-looking kit is no way to tell a story. Rob needs to talk with Suzi and have this article properly illustrated.

Yet as trials and errors teach us time and again that no one person can achieve restoration alone, the promise of partnership has taken a new turn. The return of beavers to their former haunts is showing us that even our species – the great Homo sapiens – can’t achieve restoration alone. While the Pacific Northwest remains collectively committed to the ongoing work of restoration, there is the growing awareness that our former salmon abundance was made possible with the beavers’ work. The last five centuries aside, beavers were one of the greatest earth-shapers on the continent, creating the very conditions in which our beloved salmon evolved. However much it jabs at our hubris, we are realizing that our aspirations to restore landscapes may be a kind of beaver mimicry. ELJs are, after all, what beavers do. Near my home, in the Stillaguamish River watershed, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration even estimates that, after the fur trade, winter habitats producing young salmon were reduced by 86 percent without the beavers’ presence.

It’s no wonder that beaver-based restoration partnerships are forming all around the region, eager to dispatch the rodents like mercenaries to the frontlines of damaged watersheds. And where direct reintroductions are not possible or practical, we are learning to welcome the rodents who naturally return.

Sometime you just need to get that second cup of coffee and settle in for a good long read. As wonderful as the article is, it’s even sweeter because the author was at the beaver conference, wrote me a LOVELY compliment about my presentation, and said he agreed with me that Lorne Fitch’s presentation was amazing. He also loved meeting his hero Kent in person.

US Forest Service biologist Kent Woodruff knows that many landowners consider beavers problematic, but his leadership on the project has shown them how these animals can aid us in timely, cost-effective ways. Woodruff can talk about beavers one minute as though they are venerable elders; in another, they might be an Allen wrench, just the right size; in the next, he might be on his knees, pointing out to some visiting schoolkid what makes one beaver’s tail unlike all the others. It’s no wonder that Woodruff has been dubbed a “beaver whisperer.” Since 2008, the project has relocated over 300 beavers around the Methow Valley watershed, most to headwater streams on public land.

Shhh, here comes my favorite sentence:

Glamorous as these intensive restorations are, sometimes the simplest tactic is just to let the beavers come home. But this can also be the most challenging approach – while still the most necessary – because it requires a coexistence that conquers our perceptions of beavers as pests.

You knew it was going to be something like that, right? Let the beavers relocate themselves and if you have to change anything,  spend the effort changing the people. That should be on my tombstone. There’s a very nice passage about Tricia Otto who allowed beavers to reawaken her property. Something tells me we’d be great friends.

Thankfully, there are growing numbers of people who welcome these nomads. Over the past two years, I have worked weekly as a land steward with Tricia Otto, a retired doctor and avid conservationist who had long sought to restore native biodiversity on a wounded piece of land. In 1989, when Tricia bought her hundred-acre parcel of weed-sprung woods outside Bellingham, she never thought beavers would enter the scene. But soon after her arrival, the beavers followed. First they clogged an old culvert, which backed up the little-trickle-of-a-blackberry-strangled-creek, which ultimately drowned her driveway. After a few winters of driving through standing water, she realized the beavers were doing other things: As silent teeth sawed through the nights and wet roots went to rot, trees fell. And in the felling, even-aged woods became a multigenerational community. Light hit the land again, and sometimes the land became water. Without even asking, the beavers were helping Tricia achieve her conservation goals.

Tricia!  You are a girl after my own heart. I love your pragmatic appreciation of the work beavers do. Go Read the article. Why aren’t you going to read the article?

In the past several decades, Portland, with its progressive urban growth boundary to constrict sprawl and keep the city green, has become a destination of the eco-friendly. And ever since officials from nearby Tigard, Oregon rashly breached a beaver dam, locals have started to speak up for their state animal. Greater Portland’s urban parks have become oases touted for “beaver watching” opportunities, and wherever possible, beavers are allowed to do what beavers do. The sheer curiosity these rodents provoke has shown that our natural aesthetics are wildly adaptable. Where the beavers draw too close for comfort, there are options. People are learning to foil the fellers from taking down cherished trees with hardy fences, or by coating the trunks with an abrasive paint-sand mixture.

And where beavers are truly threatening safety, public infrastructure, or private homes, people are turning to the rapidly evolving realm of non-lethal fences and flow devices aimed at beaver-proofing culverts and stream channels where flooding could be an issue. These relatively inexpensive devices include the Beaver Deceiver – a fence that prevents the beaver from coming too close to a culvert, and the Castor Master – which keeps a pond’s water level from rising above a certain height. These remarkable tools have worked for thousands across the continent, and in Europe, where Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) numbers are on the rise.

Is there any beloved topic that this article doesn’t cover? Beavers help streams and biodiversity – check. Beavers can be relocated to areas to do good work – check. It’s even better when we allow beaver to relocate themselves – check. And when beavers cause problems flow devices can solve them. – CHECK. That’s it. That’s the beaver gospel. Chapter and verse. He didn’t miss anything.

We can’t restore ecosystems alone. We have great resources out there, like the Beaver Restoration Guidebook, an infinitely practical, inspiring tome of case studies and how-tos from leading practitioners. And yet there is many a night when I put my head down, afraid I have not yet done enough, known enough, or tried enough to steward this place. In such times I take heart in how beavers recall the words of ecologist Frank Egler, who said, “Nature is not only more complex than we think; it is more complex than we can think.” I take heart in the ways we increasingly see our fellow animals not as objects to save, but as allies with common cause. The beaver is a model, measure, and motivation for this work, and I trust that we have much to live for, together. When my workday is done, I trust that somewhere, on a dark and fast-dripping stream, a beaver’s shift begins.

PERFECT. PERFECT. PERFECT. This is the very best article I could ever have hoped for. Thank you SO much for your excellent work, Rob. It could only have been slightly more perfect if it mentioned in passing how a certain California city south of Whatcom had decided to live with beavers a decade ago with excellent results including a beaver festival. But, hey. Gift horses and mouths, you know the saying.

How much do you wanna bet that after reading this the execs at Earth Island are kicking themselves that they aren’t Worth A Dam’s sponsor and let ISI get to beavers first?

help-me