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

The Martinez Beavers

Category: Creative Solutions


Isn’t it amazing how one of the unexpected consequences of having really bad men (and Betsy DeVos) busily looting the country is that it can motivate really good men and women to run for office? I mean, people who have important jobs and are soberly committed to things that take a great deal of their time – people that you would never expect to take an interest in local or not-so local politics.

Say, senior researchers at NOAA Fisheries, for example.

Pollock dethrones longtime incumbent in parks board race

Having successfully ended a dynasty, unseating longtime incumbent Kirk Robinson and claiming the Commissioner Position 5 of the board for the Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Park & Recreation District, Michael Pollock’s celebration was much less involved than his campaign.

“I just chatted with a few of the other elected officials, the ones that made it, and had a drink and went to bed,” Pollock said. “A raging party on Bainbridge is one that’s over by 9 o’clock.”

Pollock claimed victory with an immediate, commanding lead in the parks board race Tuesday. He received 54.9 percent of the vote, while Robinson locked up just 45 percent. Pollock had 2,733 votes to Robinson’s 2,243 in the last vote count.

The position on the five-member board carries a six-year term.

 

Bainbridge is an island just outside seattle where Michael Pollock has lived for years. The park system controls some 1600 acres of parkland and 32 miles of trails. It is a lovely place to live, facing the usual pressures of urbanization and conservation you might expect of an island that’s commutable to Seattle by ferry. And I’m guessing it is going to be a very, very nice place to be a salmon or beaver in the very near future.

Pollock — a former member of the Bainbridge Island City Council, but a new face in the arena of parks — easily outpaced Robinson in the race, who has held the job since 2003.

“Definitely, change is in the air,” Pollock said, referencing both his own victory and the several other newcomers voted in during Tuesday’s election.”Island voters, Pollock said, seemed to have “caught a little bit of the national mood.”

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Congratulations, Michael on your big win! You are positioned to do great things for Bainbridge and I’m sure folks know it. I just have to ask, did you actually make yard signs that said “vote Pollock” and distribute them to neighbors? If so, can I please have one? It’s hard to imagine you on election night, watching the votes pour in and taking that official winning phone call.

(I, myself never ran for office, but I learned from my time on the John Muir board that there is a lot of  governance that involves patiently listening to ridiculous things, holding your temper, mechanically seconding motions and trying to stay awake without slipping into a meditative coma.) You are obviously much more  skilled than I, and have dealt with doubters, academic and government blowhards and naysayers all your life. I know for certain that you are more than up to the task!

Big decisions need you, and we are thrilled at your success!


beaversaryTen years ago today there was no Worth A Dam, no website, and no beaver community. There were only a bunch of citizens who thought it was a bad idea for their city to kill their beavers and showed up at a meeting to tell them so. This short clip of the UK documentary Beavers Las Vegas, produced by the independent film company Middle Child Productions, shows only the barest HINT of how many passionate and persuasive comments occurred. The clip I put together isn’t very long, but you should definitely watch all the way to the end to understand why it was so successful in changing the city council’s plan.

That Dam Meeting! from Heidi Perryman on Vimeo.

A handful of very passionate folks gathered at my home right before the meeting to discuss strategy. Former city council member Bill Wainwright brought port from the local city vineyard to share for courage, and gave us lots of advice about how to pitch our message persuasively. I spent the week handing out these stamped opinion cards and I’m sure hope the city got several.

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That night, having never spoken at a public meeting before, and after barely being brave enough to call Sherri Tippie and ask for advice about relocation, I delivered the following comments:

I’m a lifelong resident of Martinez and a downtown homeowner.  While I would much rather have the beavers relocated than killed, I feel the city has failed to capitalize on a remarkable opportunity and let us all down.  In this case the DFG made some unique concessions and creative solutions, the Lindsay museum agreed to go above and beyond its calling, but the city of Martinez did neither. 

Although it has been widely reported that the city “Tried to think of another way to manage flood risk” the evidence for this is not strong.  The city Manager’s report does not even mention water-flow or leveling devices.  In fact these techniques have been used successfully for years and are well researched and understood.  Reports show a 93-100% satisfaction with them.  There is other evidence of neglect: the hydrology report does not mention tides and describes the dam as a “concrete weir” which of course it is not.  Finally, no report has looked at the likely environmental impact of removing the dam and the possible effect on new and returning species that depend on its waters: such as the famous baby otter, or the less famous but still endangered California pond turtle which has been in evidence.

If the city is determined to remove the beavers, they should be aware that successful relocation is not uncomplicated or well understood.  Since the state of California does not routinely allow relocation, there are few trappers trained in its use.  Hancock traps must be employed, and when misused can still result in harm or death.  Snare traps can cause invisible internal injuries.  Beavers have no internal temperature regulation and are there for highly vulnerable to hypothermia.  Families must be caught and released together.  I have spoken extensively with the nationally renowned expert in this area, Sherri Tippie, and have outlined her suggestions as well.  I submit them along with reports on flow control for their review.

 Many cities face these crises with technology, creativity and compassion. I wish Martinez was among them.

In the end it didn’t matter what I said. What mattered is what 50 people got up and said, and what 200 people applauded and cheered. The council sat frozen like four [Janet was in China, thank goodness] deer in headlights and we could tell we had all their attention. We knew the meeting was special while it was happening, getting more remarkable with every comment and cheer of solidarity. No one left early. And no one got tired. Nearly four hours sped by. To me it felt like a huge electrical charging station that filled me with unexpected energy for the road ahead. Remember, there was an offer on the table to ‘relocate’ the beavers, and I truly thought I might be the ONLY person to show up and disagree with that.

People sometimes assume that I somehow organized or ‘made’ that meeting. But they couldn’t be more wrong.

That meeting made me.

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This has been a busy month. I knew another pin was going to drop, but Ohio? Who would have guessed?

John Switzer: Beaver moon highlights species’ revival in Ohio

CaptureThis month’s moon is called the beaver moon, and it was full Saturday.

It is called the beaver moon because now is when beaver dens are snug and stocked with food in preparation for the winter. All fall, beavers have been cutting branches and taking them to their dens so that they can dine on the bark and wood. Sounds like a tasty winter meal.

There’s another reason the November moon is called the beaver moon. Hal Borland wrote in the book “Twelve Moons of the Year” that by November the beaver’s pelts are in prime condition. Back during this nation’s settlement, beaver hats were all the rage here and in Europe, and pelts were considered the same as currency. Their pelts were so desired that by the 1830s, beavers had been extirpated from Ohio, said Jim McCormac, a wildlife biologist.

But beavers are again relevant because they have returned to all 88 Ohio counties, entering the state from the north and east, McCormac said. McCormac said Ohio is home to an estimated 30,000 beavers. He also said that if beavers live in your area, its biodiversity and natural heath are profiting “big-time.”

Many plants and animals benefit from beaver dams and the ponds they create. He gave the example of the beautiful wood duck, whose population is increasing partly because of beaver dams.

“There are no better ecological engineers,” McCormac said of beavers.

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But having beavers in the area is not without its negative consequences. When they dam up creeks and streams, they sometime cause the flooding of farmland and other places that humans rely on.

I’ll give you an example. Early last spring I went out to Glacier Ridge Metro Park near Dublin and the park’s wetlands and a few of the nearby bike trails and hiking paths were covered by water. Beavers had dammed up the small stream that flows through the area and, by the end of the winter, caused a small flood.

But all was not lost. The Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks placed pipes through the dam so the water level could be easily lowered mechanically. “That allows us to drop the water down and not interfere with the beavers’ activities,” said Peg Hanley, spokeswoman for the parks system.

WOW! Jim McCormac is a wildlife biologist who knows his beavers! My goodness that’s exciting to read from the state. You can tell the columnist, John Switzer of the Columbus Dispatch, is not exactly sold on the flat tailed animals yet – but this article is a formidable start. I’m terribly pleased!

I was so impressed that I had to go searching for Jim McCormac and found his nature blog, Ohio birds and Capturebiodiversity. It is a wonderful collection of photographs and information. Jim is photographer and a self-described naturalist. The website has been around since 2007!

“I am a lifelong Ohioan who has made a study of natural history since the age of eight or so – longer than I can remember! A fascination with birds has grown into an amazement with all of nature, and an insatiable curiosity to learn more. One of my major ambitions is to get more people interested in nature. The more of us who care, the more likely that our natural world will survive.”

Obviously his site has enough respect and readers to get attention, and his opinions about beavers are making a difference. Thanks Jim! You are welcome any year at our beaver festival!


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?

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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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Yesterday was a strangely successful day that turned out well for beavers. After writing about the Mystic lake madness I wrote the acting director of the Custer Gallatan Forest Service and some city folks protesting the decision to sit on this problem for three months and then expose the beavers to slow death. I was written back fairly promptly by that acting director saying the army corps of engineers had told them there was a risk of a 500-year flood event for the town below if the dam washed out. He assured me they knew about flow devices and would talk about this for the future, but had to do this now. The beavers would be trapped, not left to starve, which was something.

I was grimly comforted by this news, and mollified that he wrote back at all which I did not expect. He also said that he was back at his regular job now in Vermont and another ranger was in charge – whom he cc’d on the message so we could be in touch. I still thought the beavers were done for, but I was glad that my letter had been responded to.

45 minutes later I received this:

Update on Mystic Lake project.  Engineers are currently working on a mitigation device to keep water to tolerable level after lowering and keeping the beavers in the system.  Long term solutions will be discussed at a later date.  Thanks.

Chad Benson
Deputy Forest                                                                                                                                                                                  Custer Gallatin National Forest

surprised-child-skippy-jon

There must have been a lot of other public outcry besides mine. Maybe we’ll  never know. I will say I am capable of writing a fairly decent letter, but am downright talented at finding the right email address to target even when folks work hard to hide it. Still, I can count on one hand the number of times something like this happens. Maybe it has something to do with Amy’s recent presentation on the topic and my reminding the ranger of her skills and the fact that she was trained by the man who solved our beaver problem a decade ago? Maybe someone chained themselves to a bulldozer or threatened to stop dating the mayor’s niece. Who knows how these things work?

I’m just happy it did!

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Dispersal: Elizabeth Saunders

To celebrate I started thinking about a festival design that would promote our new location and vaguely remembered a charming illustration by Elizabeth Saunders the artist who works with Cows and Fish. It was about beaver dispersal, but I thought it could easily be re-purposed to inspire Amelia on our brochure this year. Even as a starting place, I’m liking this a lot.

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Today is full of blessings in every way! Louise Ramsay posted this on FB a very nice beaver program from radio 4. There are some irritating parts but stay patient because it gets very good. I especially find it kind of wonderful to hear how happily the reporter describes their return. Enjoy!

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