Archive for the ‘Creative Solutions’ Category

Plant it, and they will come?

Posted by heidi08 On November - 15 - 2015Comments Off on Plant it, and they will come?

waterboardsOnce upon a time, lo these many months ago, the SF waterboard decided to help Martinez with some tree planting for beavers. It invited me out to present in December and got so inspired about beavers it decided to share its Watershed Stewards Program Interns from Americorp to help.

(Stop me if you’ve heard this story before.)

LoadedSo Corie and Rebecca came out for a meeting with Worth A Dam and the city engineer, then obtained a permit to take willow cuttings from wildcat canyon, then came to Martinez for a day of planting. Cheryl, Lory and Jon showed up for a day of hard work at the end of March. Is this ringing any bells?

So they spent a day planting and Jon spent the evening wrapping trees and the beavewillowrs gazed wistfully at the forbidden fruit like children eyeing their presents under the tree, and life was good. The planting was even on channel 7 news.

Then guess what? Funny story. (Not really).

Public works got a divine inspiration (or a phone call from you-know-who) and ripped every planted stake out. They piled them to one side by the road. Jon just happened to notice as he drove by.  I called the engineer in a panic to ask WTF and he called the foot soldiers who had done the dirty work and by evening these poor stakes were all back in the ground. No kidding. Shades of Alice in Wonderland painting the roses red.  Some of the trees were upside down, some barely planted, all looking the worse for wear.

It suppose it goes without saying that they all died.

IMG_0441Well, the SF Waterboard was not very happy with that. And our good friend Ann Riley swore that we would REPEAT the planting next year, this time before thanksgiving, when they’d get more water, using the help of their next intern. And these trees had better not get pulled up.

But in the meantime our beavers died or scattered to the four winds and the city launched its grand bank destabilization project, which Riley was super not happy about either, so she negotiated with the engineer that our replanting should happen exactly there, where they had pulled out all the other living things.

Riley & Cory plan the attack!

Riley & Cory plan the attack!

The new intern’s name is Brenden Martin. And he and Riley are coming friday with some helpers to replant. This time they are going to use willow cuttings from here. Meanwhile, oddly enough the film crew from Middlechild productions will be out from the UK and filming it for the part of their documentary about how cities can live with beavers. Then heading to Napa to follow up with some beaver footage.

Rusty Cohn has boldly volunteered to come help Jon and Lory with the effort, and Ron will kindly take some photos for us. Oliver Smith, the assistant producer i’ve been chatting with, is probably interviewing Lara or Mark as well as interviewing me that day. The crew  arrives SFO tueday night and supposedly the gang is staying at the John Muir Lodge.

Honestly, two months ago I was feeling like if we didn’t have beavers we should cancel the planting and let the city be responsible for their own damn trees. But Jon persuaded me to be patient and now I feel differently.  Besides it’s working out well for Urban Beavers everywhere, and that makes me happy. I ask myself, if I were a beaver living in exile and saw a bunch of tasty morsels planted in my absence, wouldn’t I think about  coming home?

I certainly would.

beaver kit eats breakfast

beaver kit eats breakfast: Cheryl Reynolds

More Beaver Gospel from HCN

Posted by heidi08 On November - 9 - 2015Comments Off on More Beaver Gospel from HCN

In the beginning there was the word.

And the word was beaver.

The first truly exciting article I read about beaver was from High Country News in 2009. It described the way we had forgotten what watersheds were supposed to look like and introduced me to the dynamic character of Mary Obrien, descrimarybing her ‘long think rope of a gray braid.’ I was so excited to see her on the schedule at the first beaver conference that I peeked around looking for long gray hair, and was dissappointed that there were too many possibilities to guess. It was okay,  she had cut her hair by then, but we met anyway, went to lunch and next year she came to the beaver festival. Remember?

Well this morning High Country News has done it again: celebrated beaver contribution on a grand scale with an article about the much beloved Methow Project and its guiding light Kent Woodruff. I feel obliged to say that the great headline was hijacked from the Canadian version of Jari Osborne’s game-changing documentary. But the rest of the text is golden.

The beaver whisperer

The lovers are wards of the Methow Valley Beaver Project, a partnership between the U.S. Forest Service, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Methow Salmon Recovery Foundation that, since 2008, has moved more than 300 beavers around the eastern Cascades. These beavers have damaged trees and irrigation infrastructure, and landowners want them gone. Rather than calling lethal trappers, a growing contingent notifies the Methow crew, which captures and relocates the offenders to the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and state land.

130044.beaver-sticker-2014-storing-waterWhy would Washington invite ditch-clogging nuisances — so loathed that federal Wildlife Services killed 22,000 nationwide in 2014 — into its wildlands? To hear Methow project coordinator Kent Woodruff tell it, beavers are landscape miracle drugs. Need to enhance salmon runs? There’s a beaver for that. Want to recharge groundwater? Add a beaver. Hoping to adapt to climate change? Take two beavers and check back in a year.

Decades of research support Woodruff’s enthusiasm. Beaver wetlands filter sediments and pollutants from streams. They spread rivers across floodplains, allowing water to percolate into aquifers. They provide rearing grounds for young fish, limit flooding and keep ephemeral creeks flowing year-round.

“We want these guys everywhere,” says Woodruff, a white-stubbled Forest Service biologist with an evangelical gleam in his blue eyes. On this sweltering July morning, he watches as wildlife scientists Catherine Means and Katie Weber hoist Chomper and Sandy, now caged, into the truck that will convey them to the Okanogan-Wenatchee. “We want beavers up every stream, in all the headwaters.”

Yes we do. And mouth too. (Ahem). I’m so happy this is getting the attention of the higher-ups. Kent is a mild-mannered but passionate man who makes easy alliances across party lines. I’ve always been a little jealous of him. Compared to our hard scrabble here in Martinez, the Methow project has always lived a fairly charmed life because it has SO much agency support. Here’s the list of partners in 2014:

CaptureSo you can see he’s very gifted at playing well with others. One thing I love about the article is getting the back story about Kent himself;

That’s where Woodruff came in. Since arriving in the Okanagan in 1989, he’d focused on birds, installing nesting platforms for owls. But he yearned to leave an enduring legacy, and in 2008 his opportunity -arrived. John Rohrer, Woodruff’s supervisor, had been relocating beavers on a small scale since 2001 — even digging a holding pool in his own backyard. Meanwhile, the Washington Department of Ecology wanted to improve regional water quality. Woodruff thought beavers could help. He offered to expand Rohrer’s endeavor.

I never knew he was a bird man! Cheryl will be happy to read that. Now I’m a purist and want there to be a sentence in here crediting Sherri Tippie for the realization that beaver families do better when they’re relocated as a unit. But I guess  saving beavers is a bit like the story of Stone Soup if you’re lucky. Everyone contributes what they can without realizing it matters and in the end helps create something nourishing.

Anyway, its a great article. Go read the whole thing, and if you feel inclined leave a comment about the valuable role beavers can play in urban landscapes.

Here’s was my contribution yesterday, which is an timely response to the articles implication  that the answer to our beaver problems is to take them out of the city and move them up country. (As you know, I believe the answer is to let them move wherever they dam well please and make adjustments accordingly.) Credit where its due, the play on words comes from our friend Tom Rusert in Sonoma. But I’m fairly happy with its application here. See if you can tell what city this is:

urban beavers


Painting the town – er trunk, in Fargo

Posted by heidi08 On November - 8 - 2015Comments Off on Painting the town – er trunk, in Fargo

Beaver Backers paint trees in Fargo to protect furry friends

Thief River Falls resident Nina Berg, a member of the Beaver Backers organization that sprung up to defend the Fargo beavers, said the large-scale tree painting Saturday will hopefully spare the beavers.

The board voted to cull beavers after hearing concerns from residents and staff about the animals destroying trees and costing the city thousands of dollars. Park District officials said later they were open to non-leathal options.

The painting is a solution that will appease beaver backers and those concerned with the trees, Berg said.

“(The mixture) will be very unappealing to the beavers, and they will avoid those trees that we’re trying to protect,” Berg said.

The group spent several hours on Saturday painting more than 1,300 trees on the Fargo side of the river. The group will paint about 75 percent of the trees in the park and save 25 percent of the trees for the beavers to munch on and build dams

Hurray for the sensible, compassionate folks of Fargo who held a kickstarter to raise funds for the project and got 30 volunteers out in November to sand paint trees! 1300 is A LOT of trees. They are officially the tree-painting capital of the world now. I’m thrilled that this was able to happen, but still a little confused about the color choice.? Why not match the trunk? We’ve certainly marched into Home Depot with willow branches for them to match. But heck, maybe mint green was on sale.

Michelle Peterson said the painting will save beavers and the trees and hopefully sway the Park District to allow the beavers stays of execution. “If they come out here and see that it’s working, then hopefully they’ll let us keep coming out and doing this every year,” Berg said, adding that the group had permission from the Park District to paint the trees.

Nina and Michelle ROCK! They got tons of media for this project and volunteer support. Fingers crossed they used enough mason sand to really discourage those beavers. Jon always found that by the end he was using his hands to really get the sand to stick.

And because remarkable stories like this deserve a treat, I’m sharing the stunning photo found by Ann Cameron Siegal on Creative Commons. It was taken by Elizabeth Haslam and posted yesterday on the US Fish and Wildlife Facebook page. And some lovely human said, “I just saw this fantastic documentary on all the great things beavers do”.

Guess what the nation’s wildlife experts commented. Go ahead, guess.

great mother kit beaver

Elizabeth Haslam: Creative Commons

“Awesome! Do you remember what it’s called? In case folks are interested.”

That’s right, even though all of America and parts of Canada watched Jari Osborne’s incredible documentary in 2014, and all of Canada watched it in 2013, even though it had the highest ratings of any Nature program on Public television that year and was the one that PBS sent for Emmy consideration, the experts at fish and wildlife didn’t even know about it. Because, I guess, busman’s holiday. They already know it all. Why learn more?

If they wanted to learn more they should come to the beaver festival this year. I spent yesterday finishing the grant application for this year’s children’s activity. It details how Mike at Wildbryde will design charms shaped like rail cars to for children to fashion into a bracelet. I can’t help being a little proud of this.

all aboard


“Oh, the beaver and the cowman should be friends”

Posted by heidi08 On November - 7 - 2015Comments Off on “Oh, the beaver and the cowman should be friends”

Do you know who Carol Evans is? You really should. I read about her work in Elko, NV many years ago and knew I had to reach out. You for sure saw her in the beginning of the PBS documentary checking out the beaver restoration of Suzie Creek in Nevada with Suzanne Fouty. Now do you remember? Carol has been working her special collaborative magic with the unbelievably complex cast of characters in her state with some pretty amazing results.

So amazing, in fact, that she was recently invited to a biodiversity and climate change workshop at Tufts University in Boston. (Which is about as close as you come in this line of work to being a rock star). Because the university is among the finest in the land, the web page for the conference has everyone’s presentation and slides up and downloadable. You could spend many hours but, start with Carol and Jon, who are a superhuman tagteam of why to live with beavers.

I know that everyone is busy and maybe thinking you don’t have time to watch. But believe me, you should. Here’s my favorite slide of Carol’s, showing the ground water increases adjacent to a beaver dam.
shallow groundwater better(That’s a little thing beavers do called “recharging the aquifer”.)

And just in case you are inclined to watch hers and not  his, I will warn you that you would be making a very grave error. Because Jon Grigg’s straightforward, plainspoken presentation is wonderfully powerful. I can completely understand why they have had such success all over the state because of his resonance. I don’t agree with every single thing he says, but that is how collaboration works. You form alliances based on mutual interests and set aside disagreements until you get things accomplished. And I am proud to think both of them are allies in our work to educate folks about beavers.

Wasn’t that awesome? That’s right, now even Nevada knows more about beaver restoration than California. Sigh.

I got a call this week from a producer working on a beaver film for the UK, he wanted to make the argument for beaver reintroduction there and will be interviewing Carol, Mary Obrien and Michael Pollock, among others. They will be doing the bulk of their filming in Nevada and Oregon, but I made a strong case for urban beaver restoration and pitched what we had done and what Napa was currently doing. He was actually really interested in including Napa because it was so well known and was going to pitch the idea to his team. Fingers crossed, their local beavers maybe stars someday.

It’s been a weirdly busy month. In addition to everything else, I received a disappointing note that my beaver article won’t be included in this ‘Phoebe’ newsletter for the Sierra Foothill Audubon Society because it got bumped for climate change. Hrmph. Another year of massive beaver depredations in Placer county I bet. Hopefully it can appear sometime in the future. In the meantime, I received a great video this morning about genetic resilience and climate change in cottonwoods, that actually has a segment on the importance of beavers. The title is aptly a quote from Martinez’s own John Muir.

Its very well done, I learned several new words and you will be much smarter at the end than you were at the beginning. It won’t let me embed it here, but click on the title to go see for yourself. The beaver segment starts at 31.20. Just remember, we are what we learn.


A Thousand Invisible Cords: Connecting Genes to Ecosystems, the complete movie from Research on Vimeo.

Good Beaver News

Posted by heidi08 On November - 5 - 2015Comments Off on Good Beaver News

Oh no, I hate when this happens. There are too many good beaver things to write about at once. I’m going to have to shuffle some to the back burner. Well, no matter. We have to make room for this:

How the Beaver War forever changed Batwater Station

Clatskanie resident Karin Hunt has always called her land Batwater Station, or BW for short, but there was time when the BW stood for Beaver War. She said the critters put up a prolonged fight against attempts to clear Batwater Station, a fight Eventually, the beavers’ tenacity and inclination towards plugging water flows led to a confrontation, pitting them against Hunt’s tide gates and culverts. Hunt’s attempts to regulate the water level on her land were matched at every step by the critters efforts to the contrary.

Hunt collaborated with Tyler Joki at the Columbia County Soil and Water Conservation District and Bill Bennett at the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership and they helped to apply for grants. The process of evaluation began, hydrological and other studies were conducted during a two-year period, and it was determined that a levee breach would have the most impact in restoring the land, returning the natural activity of the river to the area.

“What was amazing was how quick it happened,” Hunt said. “All because of the good old beaver.”

Since moving forward with the land restoration, the area has continued to develop its wildlife population. Ducks, frogs, otters, osprey and turtles are among the creatures that frequent Batwater Station, sometimes in such fruitful numbers that Hunt has to turn away prospective hunters.

“Our goal is to give the land back to nature and let it run its own course,” Tillson said.

How quickly can we all move to Oregon?  This is an excellent report and I’m very impressed not only with Karen and her husband, but with the agencies involved who were committed to keeping beavers on the stream, enough that they made a plan to puncture a levee!

Someone tape this story to Sacramento’s forehead.

On to England, where this nice report was recently released. It was just tagged with a copy right warning so I lent a helping hand in case its removed. It has amazing footage from Tom Buckley who is obviously the Moses Silva of Cornwall. Watch:

Love the footage of her moving the kits and snuffling for danger after the dog intrusion is pretty nice to see also. Even though Tom is worried by not seeing the kits, this recent report was pretty reassuring.

Devon’s beavers still alive and healthy, wildlife chief believes  

Devon Wildlife Trust has said there is ‘no cause for concern’ over the disappearance of England’s only wild beavers.

The colony – the country’s first wild beavers in over 400 years – have not been seen at their usual riverside home for six weeks.

Amateur wildlife cameraman Tom Buckley, who photographed the creatures last February in the River Otter, fears human visitors may have scared them away.

But Trust chief executive Harry Barton said they have more than likely moved to a new lodge upstream.

“Where they have been is a rather public place but its not unusual for beavers to move around and there are sings of activity,” he told the Western Morning News.

I am not wholly reassured by the DWT saying the beavers are fine, because in my experience the folks actually watching the beaver every day usually know better than the folks overseeing things. But I am comforted by the general resilience of beavers, and think its way more likely that they moved to greener pastures and tastier shoots than were killed by a farmer or his dogs.

We will stay tuned.

Good news and a repair

Posted by heidi08 On November - 3 - 2015Comments Off on Good news and a repair

Let’s start with the repair first. A few days ago I wrote about the the Fork Factory Brook installing some pipes to ‘make the beavers leave.’ It was badly written report from the local paper, and I heard back from nearly everyone involved. clarifying that the didn’t just install pipes and had training and consultation from Mr. Beaver Solutions himself. I couldn’t be happier.

Actually I thought Mike Francis of The Trustees of Reservations did an excellent job of beaver ‘splaining. However, this is a classic example of a reporter writing an inflammatory article to excite readership. Trying to create an issue when there isn’t one. The author quoted people not directly involved who had inflammatory things to say about beavers. Nowhere in the article did it say that a few weeks ago Mike hired me and we met on site with the Highway Superintendent, Board of Health Agent, and Conservation Commission for an hour and a half. I made suggestions to improve the Pond Leveler pipes TTOR installed, and the Highway Super. was very satisfied with the plan. Try to find that info in that crappy article. – Mike Callahan

Thank you for sharing your comments and concerns on the beaver deceiver. To clarify, the two culvert pipes that The Trustees installed have cages on the inflow end, for the reasons that you pointed out. We’ve worked with Mike Callahan from Beaver Solutions in the past and he visited this site to share insight and recommendations. The Trustees will be installing a third pipe and expanding the size of the fence/cages to prevent the beavers from sensing water flow around the cage. Thank you for sharing the link to the book. -Mike Francis

And from Wayne:

I would appreciate it if you actually visited the site before publicly deriding our work to mitigate the beavers in Fork Factory brook. We do have a cage, something you would have know if you had gone to check out the site yourself instead of relying on a poorly written newspaper article. – Wayne Clullo

Well, you got me there. It is a poorly written article.

I did visit the site, it took a bit of doing but I eventually found your beaver management plan. And full marks for your saying trapping would be used ONLY as a last resort. There were no photos I found about beaver installations.  I’m just thrilled BEYOND MEASURE that you took appropriate measures, consulted Mike, and didn’t do it wrong on purpose so you could kill them later. I’ll afford you the benefit of the doubt and not suspect ill intent even though the article quotes you as saying ‘the real long term solution will be trapping’. You have earned a retraction. Consider it done.

Now that this housekeeping is out of the way I can share the EXCITING new from our Southern California Beaver friends.


(Photo by Piotr Kamionka via Shutterstock)


There’s A Proposal To Bring Beavers To L.A. To Help With The Drought

In the midst of the devastating Californian drought, one woman is proposing that we reintroduce beavers to L.A. County to mitigate our water problem.

A couple of weeks ago, Britt Sheflin, a 37-year-old private chef for software startup company Oblong Industries, submitted her beaver campaign to GOOD Maker—a platform for social action—as one of the over 70 proposal entries for its “LA is the Best Place to Live” competition. The challenge encourages people to submit ideas, projects or programs that would make L.A. the best place to live today and in 2050. Voting for the competition ends on Nov. 3, and the winner will receive $100,000 to work on their project.

Sheflin’s plan is to reintroduce the North American Beaver (a.k.a. castor canadensis) to “to key areas where we need to control drought, flash floods, and further loss of fish and wildlife habitat,” she writes on GOOD. Sheflin suggests that the ways these “hydro-engineers” could benefit L.A. County includes “intensive water filtration, drought ‘savings accounts’ created by the deep, topographically varied ponds, and naturally rich soil that is dispersed throughout regions where beaver reside.”

If she wins this challenge, she would use the money to conduct research, work to advocate with policymakers, manage the project, and bring people who have handled the beavers on board.

How cool is this? Beavers make front page news in LA! If you’re anywhere in the vicinity you have about three hours left to vote. So DO IT! The article goes on to talk about her thinking that doing this will create better conditions for her 15 month old daughter, and refers to the recent water article and the Methow project. But the coolest part about this article is that ALL THIS isn’t even the coolest part yet. That I’m saving for last:

Sheflin also refers to the the beavers in Martinez, California as an example of a successful watershed program involving beavers. Back in 2008, a family of beavers began living in the area’s Alhambra Creek, according to Bay Nature magazine. While some were afraid the beavers would cause flooding and wanted them out of the area, the City Council voted to let them stay. Since then the beavers have helped create habitats for other species, and keep a healthy watershed.

And that, as they say, is some mighty good promotion of Martinez as a beaver-lovin’, problem-solvin’ community! Your welcome, Mr. Schroder. Can I expect my key to the city in the mail? Or will you just drop it off yourself on your way home?


New Spokesman for Smokey the Bear?

Posted by heidi08 On October - 24 - 2015Comments Off on New Spokesman for Smokey the Bear?

only you

And on that fateful and long-awaited day that the weary world saw the very best beaver headline in the history of newsprint, you can probably guess whose photo it ran.

The beautiful image that accompanied the seminal article had been taken in this sleepy city in northern California, and featured one of our many yearlings grooming himself on the primary dam. It was placed on wikipedia in 2009 by our good friend and champion editor Rickipedia to better tell the beaver story.

And when the photo appeared in the widely read and internationally acclaimed Gizmodo more than 6 years later it was by-lined: Cheryl Reynolds of Worth A Dam.


We’ve already seen how beavers can save California from its seemingly endless drought. Now it looks like they can save the world from industrial farming by changing the chemistry of the water, making them natural biochemists.

Nitrogen fertilizers on farm land get washed into streams, where they fuel an algae population boom. The algae use up the oxygen in the streams, the rivers, and eventually parts of the ocean, leaving nothing for the fish and leading to large “dead zones.”

Biologists at the University of Rhode Island were studying the nitrogen content of streams and noticed something odd: whenever there were beaver ponds upstream, nitrogen levels dropped. Beaver ponds slow down river water, and they mix it with organic matter, which must have an effect on river chemistry, but scientists didn’t know exactly what was happening in that murky water.

So they made soda-bottle-sized “ponds” that let them study variations on the conditions the beavers set up in their real-life ponds. And they found a kind of reverse nitrogen fixation process was occurring — call it “denitrification.” Bacteria in the dirt and the plant debris turned nitrates into nitrogen gas. The gas bubbled up to the surface and mixed with the atmosphere once more. In some cases, the level of nitrogen in the water dropped 45%.

The effect was most pronounced in small streams, which lead to bigger rivers and eventually to the ocean. Beavers often set up their homes in these tiny streams—or they did before they were trapped or driven away. Re-introducing them might completely change downstream chemistry, make these environments more livable not just for the beavers, but for their fellow creatures, too.

Could there be a better headline? I especially appreciate the use of the phrase “more reasons”. As if we already knew there were SO MANY REASONS which (of course) we do. And I’m wild-crazy about the word only too. Only beavers can save the world – not nuclear power, solar energy or mechanical bees. But BEAVERS. Yeah!

Will nitrogen be the seismic force that shakes up the old “nuisance” ideas about beaver? It has certainly shown up many many times on my google alerts. When this story broke I was alternately hopeful and wary, prompting our librarian friend BK from Georgia to write that he thought we were closer to the beaver-tipping point than I understood, and adding,

“don’t despair that people in general will never properly respect beaver. I think we’re getting pretty close and your persistent blogging has no doubt served as a major catalyst for generating interest and continues to be inspirational!”

Which was a very nice and undeservedly gratifying thing for him to say, but I freely admit that I’m more pessimistic by nature than Bob. (I’d like to blame the fact that I live in a city like Marmeenest, but it probably goes deeper than that.) In the meantime I am going to see the glass half full and appreciate that our Martinez beavers produced what has become the [second most] recognized beaver photo in the world.

Not to mention that glorious fact that the name “Worth A Dam” appeared on Gizmodo during a day in which it received over 75,000,000 views.