Archive for the ‘Earth Day’ Category

Tidings of Beaver Comfort and Joy

Posted by heidi08 On June - 26 - 2014Comments Off


 Backyard beaver

Living on Bear Creek, we take great pleasure in watching the wildlife. A few days ago, my partner, Tom, came running in shouting, “Beaver! Beaver in the river!” He grabbed his binoculars and raced to the back window.

I grew up in a big city and thought beavers were ancient, extinct creatures seen only in picture books. I was shocked to actually see one in my backyard.

She was standing in the water on her hind legs, reaching for leaves on a tree that had fallen across the creek. Through the binoculars, I could see her chubby, brown belly and her tiny little hands carefully picking the leaves and stuffing them into her mouth. After she had eaten everything she could reach, she let go and floated down the river.

 The image of the beaver stayed with me all that day and into the next. It felt like a gift meant to be treasured. I kept telling myself: Don’t forget the beaver. Hold on to the image of her in your mind.

 The Daily Tidings is a charming media group out of Oregon and Jessica Bryan’s joyful descant on having a beaver in her backyard is a welcome change. You might want to go read the whole thing so they can count your traffic as evidence that beavers sell subscriptions! In the mean time, I will just think about what we’ve all learned from keeping beavers in our minds.

Yesterday I received a pressured email from Michelle Roberts of NBC Bay Area wanting to talk about beavers and turtles – she said she saw an article where I discussed (I can’t imagine?). We set up an interview that got eclipsed by several fires and arrests in the South Bay, so I introduced her to Beaver friend Leslee Hamilton of the Guadelupe River Park Conservancy and she did a short interview at the end of last nights news, which I sadly can’t find online. You might have seen it? I also spent the day fixing our paypal link and learning about Paypal Here which will let us take credit cards at the beaver festival!

Cheryl took this awesome photo Sunday night with our new festival team members after our cheerful, productive dinner. Clearly the beavers were grateful for our hard planning work and decided to put on a show. If you made a paper bag beaver puppet at Earth Day you know that kits start out with white teeth which turn orange as they grow because of the iron in their diet. This teenager shows us he’s well is well on his way to the bright orange badge of adulthood. See for yourself for yourself:

Yearling 2014

Yearling shows off 2014 his growing up teeth – Cheryl Reynolds

Word is out about the 2015 State of the Beaver Conference. Leonard is happily lining up presenters and sponsors. He has asked me to present again on our famous urban beavers, and we found the perfect house by the river belonging to his friends which we can rent that will take the dog. (No WIFI though, so you may have to live without my dulcet ramblings for a few days.) Maybe I can dash something out at the hotel during the breaks!10410848_665549646856966_2127178050104604478_n

I’m thinking the poster for such an important conference might need more pizazz. So I dressed it up a bit…too much?

leonard 2

Full Circle

Posted by heidi08 On June - 11 - 2014Comments Off

Apparently Channel 7′s news agreed that Moses footage was the cutest thing ever. I shared it with the reporter who interviewed me on the bridge earlier this year, and she passed it to the team. Good credits for Moses! I can’t embed it but click below to get to the story – and tell me btw another feel-good story that has a shelf life of 7 years?

CaptureApparently it took a team of engineers to solve the problem! Who knew? I thought it was one shirtless man with a shovel?


A series of lovely ponds created by beaver dams in Alberta is shown to us in “Hiking with Barry“, a breath-taking blog about the trekking adventures of a hardy Canadian.

It’s wonderful to imagine beavers having all this space to themselves. This particular adventure goes through old beaver habitat in pristine country and pieces together what must have been a multi-family beaver operation. What we know is that beavers are smart enough to use the bitter-tasting furs for building material and the leave the delicious Aspens for dinner!

But maybe it wasn’t entirely left to the beavers, because there’s a gravel road, a near by research facility and he finds this rusting near a pond:

Looks to me like a ‘beaver baffle’ which is a Canadian invention meant to protect culverts from beavers. Maybe that gravel road needed some protecting. Then again, maybe the fact that it’s lying here and there are no more beavers left with a pristine road means someone gave up on the baffle idea and took matters into their own hands.


Still its a lovely look at lovely habitat. Go check it out here:

Last night’s beavers did not disappoint – although they are clearly thinking we don’t yet deserve to see the baby head at a reasonable hour. I think we counted all 6 beavers. At times it was hard to know where to film. There were beavers to the left and right and more emerging and diving every moment.  Nancy Jones from the Blue Heron Preserve  in Georgia was enormously impressed. She is a former high school art teacher who created the preserve after a particularly ill-intentioned developer lost the land, (which is a story I love very much).

The Lake Emma Wetlands property was added to the Preserve due to an EPA action in 2002. The developer owner, filled the original stream channel, a violation of the Clean Water Act and also diverted the water flow into a new hand dug channel. The Army Corps of Engineers permitted him to lower the level of the dam that held the original lake waters and all of these actions combined accelerated the demise of the wetlands.

She is dedicated to the health of her slice of ‘nature in the city’ and has the good sense to realize that beavers are a big part of that. She wanted to come to Martinez to see how we managed. She and her friend were amazed to see beavers swimming right under them, and even hear them at times. Her preserve is right in the middle of Atlanta but she has been thrilled and excited to watch their progress. She showed me the photo of the beautiful island lodge they have and talked about wanting to make starter dams to encourage them to build in more of the preserve. She couldn’t believe how anti-beaver all of Georgia was, but she was loving learning about them and trying to get others to do the same. Did the beavers need trenches dug for them through the channels so they could be sure of more water?

I smiled, hardly believing that such beaver benevolence could happen in that particular state. Remember, this is the state where I first read about the shocking tail bounty when I was a young and tender-hearted beaver reporter. I was so upset by the story I sent the original children’s drawings from our very first Earth day event directly to the commissioners who made the decision. (Even better, I arranged for the friend of a friend who lived in Georgia send them herself, so I could be sure they would be opened!) Remember these?


Now here I was, talking to a woman from Georgia on our bridge who was asking me if the beavers she cared about needed trenches dug for them?

Trust me, I smiled. If the beavers need trenches they will dig them all by themselves.

Making a beaver army

Posted by heidi08 On April - 27 - 2014Comments Off

WORKING7It turns out that convincing people to think new ways about beavers doesn’t take prestigiously published papers, tables of data, award winning researchers, or successful salmon. It doesn’t mean lectures or slides or documentaries. I hate to break it to the universities and fellowships but people aren’t persuaded by science. Just look at climate change or evolution. It doesn’t matter how much you prove it or disprove it. People are persuaded by engagement. A personal experience that touches them and takes their own energy and thought.

And yesterday at John Muir’s Earth Day these children (and their parents) were engaged.

amy3Yesterday 5 lbs of buttons for eyes, 400 forks, 250 kit tails and nearly 300 adult tails were turned into a paper bag beaver army, carefully designed to halt the enemy with a round of “AWWW” so that the subtle weapon of CARING could be neatly slipped in between the steel ribs of indifference.

BUSYWe were so busy all day that we were grateful for the few momentary lulls in traffic. We saw children and parents talking about beavers, learning about beavers, understanding why adults have orange teeth, and making beavers with their own unique flair. One little girl made a pirate beaver. One boy made a cyclops. And one delightful beaver was lovingly crafted with a belly button.

cute kidwithkit2

Beavers were celebrated, clarified, and personalized. Adults who thought they ate fish were righteously corrected by their children who explained that they ate willow. One little girl crisply clarified that they ate “CAMBIUM”.  Martinez residents  wondered how its beavers were doing, where dad had found a new wife, where the young beavers dispersed to, and why other cities didn’t have beavers.


Jon and Jean were consumed most of the day, passing out bags, selecting ears and letting the spirit of the beaver take over the hardworking craftschildren at the table. Since our artist FRO couldn’t be with us this year, it was left to Jon and Jean to supervise the masses. Jon said he surprised himself by how much fun he had. Cheryl  as usual was busy behind the camera taking these wonderful photos. And I was schmoozing about beavers at the booth.

 jonworkingAUNTIE JEAN

HEIDISeveral times during the day, someone walked up to the booth to thank me for the festivals and the beavers. Sincere moms and Dads described how their children kept their necklaces from the beaver festival and looked forward to it year after year. One mom said that her daughter had never gotten the idea of ecosystems and species interaction until she made the keystone species necklace and now she completely understood.

heidimuirmASTERLots of families had seen the beavers in person, and lots more had plans to come back and look for them. John Muir stopped by and decried that horrible Hetch Hetchy dam  they had built and reminded that the only dams needed in the Sierras were beaver dams. Some thanked us for saving the beavers, and gladly asked for their photo to be taken with their creation.

Highlights of the day were the young woman who said her friend was working on a proposed beaver management plan for the entire country at Oregon State University and would I like to connect with him? Council woman Delaney saying how much she appreciated all the work I had done for the beavers. Congressman Miller’s aide stopping by to talk beavers and ask about the next festival.    Councilman Mark Ross coming by later to appreciate my “How to live with beavers” poster. He smiled sheepishly and said that I should have included a photo of the retaining wall.

signsTo which  I laughed back honestly  and said “You probably wouldn’t want to see the poster I would make about the sheet pile”.

SCARVESAn excellent day all in all with remarkable children, patient parents, curious teens, 10 trekking scarves sold, inspiring conservation award  winners,  no rain and very little warmth and even a special visual event in the sky.

Muir’s Birthday Miracle ~ 2014 from Alhambra Hills on Vimeo.

In case I haven’t given a good enough description here’s a taste of the day:

kids with adults kids with kits

making an army

I could write on and on. But it looks like I’ve come to The End.


Remembering an Important birthday on Earth day

Posted by heidi08 On April - 22 - 2014Comments Off

John Muir at his desk as imagined by Ian Timothy

John Muir was born in Dunbar Scotland 176 years ago yesterday. He was the third of eight children born to strict Presbyterian parents who felt that time spent outdoors in nature was a distraction from time learning the bible. In fact, by the time Muir was a young man he could recite most of the old and and all of the new testaments by heart. When he was 11 the family immigrated to Wisconsin, and Scotland’s native son became America’s treasure. After adventures from Canada to Florida, Muir at  40 fell in love with Louisa Strenzel in Martinez in 1880 and settled into a partnership with her physician father managing their 2600 acre fruit ranch, some of which is still producing today. It was in this house that Muir had his office (“scribble den”) and  wrote his seminal works. It was in this house that Muir received countless dignitaries and inspired guests, including the author of the most important beaver book ever written, Enos Mills.

Mills Muir Martinez.jpgSome 169 years later.Ian Timothy, of the most famous beaver animation series “Beaver Creek” ever crafted also made a pilgrimage to Martinez with his parents. He squeezed Muir’s hometown in right between his homage to Pixar and his appearance at the Wild and Scenic Film Festival in Nevada City.

Kentucky meets CaliforniaA  life long admirer of Muir’s message and work, so it’s hardly surprising that his Freshman year film project at Cal Arts’ is a piece about Muir.

Looking at the stills, I for one can’t wait  to see it.

1978716_4104302143156_489321074155510479_nOh, and if you want to celebrate Muir’s birthday and legacy in person, you should join the party on Saturday.1911896_506523056125273_551774769_n

Let’s not do it the easy way!

Posted by heidi08 On March - 27 - 2014Comments Off

Sacramento County approves plan to restore channel to natural creek state

 A graffiti-ridden drainage channel running through the American River Parkway in Rancho Cordova is poised for a major makeover that will transform it into a cleaner and greener creek where recreational and educational activities abound.

 The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a contract assessing the environmental impact of the Cordova Creek Naturalization Project – a rehabilitation effort that has been in the works for nearly a decade. The approval is a major milestone in a plan that involves breaking up and burying the channel’s concrete walls and rerouting its water through a new creek, which will be surrounded by native vegetation and walking trails.

 The new creek will allow the soil around it to absorb the water, which comes from a runoff watershed in Rancho Cordova, ultimately creating a 15-acre riparian area where trees and wildflowers can flourish.

 “It looks like a fallow field with a concrete ditch running through it,” said Gohring. “When we’re done, it will be a meandering stream which will provide an amazing amount of habitat diversity. … For those of us who do ecological restoration work, it’s like the holy grail.

 Honestly, at this point, do I even need to say it anymore? I’ve seen your Holy Grail Rancho Cordova and it looks like this.

Cover VII

Wanted to share Amelia Hunter’s fantastic new design for the seventh beaver festival. Don’t you love seeing the duality of a beaver’s life? Thank you Amelia for your lovely artwork, and I hope when our ad runs in Bay Nature paying customers with great big grants flock to you in droves.

Another beaver friend is working to organize a guided Amtrak journey from Oakland hosted by the Oakland Museum Docent Chris Richards. That would be a fun way to add watershed context to the festival. Fingers crossed it will really happen. I pulled together this graphic to celebrate!

straight train


Beavers on Aljazeera?

Posted by heidi08 On October - 15 - 2013Comments Off

You bet your sweet alif they are! Check out the episode four of Earthrise.

 Earthrise: Beaver Farmer

An English farmer sets out to restore the country’s wetlands, with help from nature’s most experienced engineers.

Wetlands are one of the world’s most valuable ecosystems; as well as providing a rich habitat for plants and animals, they also store carbon and help reduce floods by soaking up excess rain.  But around the world, vast swathes of them are being destroyed, and in England alone, 90 percent of wetlands have disappeared in the last 400 years.

 Now English farmer Derek Gow has a novel plan to restore these precious habitats – bring back beavers, the massive semi-aquatic rodents that once played a crucial role in shaping the British countryside. Using their sharp teeth, beavers chop down small trees and branches to build dams across streams, creating a large network of pools and channels to live in, which form a brand new wetland.

 Sylvia Rowley travels to Devon, UK, to see what nature’s construction workers can do, and to help release a pair of beavers into their new home on Derek’s farm.

I hope this particular episode is available on the web once it airs, because this is definately  news we can use. I’ll be excited to see it in person. You will remember that Derek is the farmer in Devon (Southwest England) that has been pretty outspoken for beavers. I found out he and Duncan Ramsay (Free beavers on the Tay in Scotland) are old friends so we are working the country from both ends, (so to speak). I can’t wait to see this particular work from the beaver lobby and am excited to see this making the rounds.

And just to show you I’m a trustworthy source, here’s some feedback about yesterday’s Clemson Calamity:

Mike Callahan Heidi is right on about the historic importance of the Clemson Pond Leveler and that it rightfully has been relegated to the proverbial shelf as had her original personal computer or the Model T. Flexible Pond Levelers and Castor Masters work so much better, last longer, and are much cheaper and easier to install. Coincidentally today I am going back to the Norwottuck Rail Trail, the site of my first and only Clemson Pond Leveler installation in 1998 to adjust a Flexible Pond Leveler pipe that successfully replaced that CPL.

Slightly better at keeping secrets

Posted by heidi08 On June - 22 - 2013Comments Off

Way back when Worth A Dam was just forming, (during the punic wars, as Edward Albee would say) I was looking for a licensed non-profit to be our receiving organization and was having conversations with an urban wildlife group based in LA. I was so excited they were interested in being involved I wrote it about it on the then nascent website and they were so annoyed I had blasted the secret liaison-in-process that they withdrew. Keeping secrets, I learned, is very important for beavers. Who knew? It was okay, very soon after their withdrawal I did a presentation for Pleasant Hill Creeks and met Bill Feil of Land for Urban Wildlife who became our official non-profit umbrella and that has worked very well for 5 years. I think it was all for the best, but I did learn something about keeping secrets.

Sarah Koenisberg

What I learned is to not talk about the thing you’re not supposed to talk about, but to keep asking for permission over and over in alternately charming and irritating ways until your requests are so annoying you are given the all clear! So when Suzanne Fouty called to ask me if I’d talk to Sarah Koenigsberg of Whitman college in WA a few months ago, I said sure. Talk beavers to a complete stranger? Of course! Turns out Sarah is an instructor working on a film project about beavers and their advocates, focusing on climate change and water. She was going to interview Mary Obrien and Suzanne Fouty and Sherri Tippie for the film, but all three insisted they talk to me as well.

It was an incredibly exciting moment to think that the three believed I had something important to offer to the film, because I admire those three women slightly more than God. I could remember the amazing article that first introduced me to Mary way back when she was described in that excellent article from High Country News. It remains one of my favorite beaver reads, even though I now realize the photo at the beginning is a muskrat – not a beaver.

The Semester in the West – or here let them describe it

Whitman College Semester in the West is an interdisciplinary field program focusing on public lands conservation and rural life in the interior American West. Our objective is to know the West in its many dimensions, including its diverse ecosystems, its social and political communities, and the many ways these ecosystems and communities find expression in regional environmental writing and public policy.

We agreed that they would come help with Festival VI, get some film of it and we’d do an interview as well. Wow! Can I tell everyone right now? I was dimly able to ask. No, Sarah said, let me get it confirmed and formalized and then it can happen. I promised to hold my tongue. Which I did. Can I talk about it now? How ’bout now?

Cat out of the bag! All I can say is Sarah should be thankful there were distracting new kits to keep me occupied! Yesterday I finally got the ALL CLEAR so now it’s official and I can formally say that Sarah of Tensegrity productions will be coming to do an interview and film the festival.

The project at hand is a documentary film with the working title, The Beaver Believers. It tells the story of several strong women and their allies, and their common cause of seeking to restore Castor Canadensis, the North American beaver, to much of its former native habitat to provide more water and habitat in the ever-warming West. We propose to tell their stories of creativity, grit, and whimsy with the same spirited spontaneity and serendipity as their activism and ecological citizenship itself. The film will be 35- to 45-minutes in length, appropriate for the “documentary short” category in film festivals.

A collaborative effort between filmmaker Sarah Koenigsberg (director of photography) and Whitman College Professor of Politics Phil Brick (director), The Beaver Believers is already well on its way into pre-production, and we have a rigorous production schedule planned for the summer of 2013. Filming will take place from May to August with shoots scheduled in Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. {eds note: AND MARTINEZ!}

Now you must hear a taste of their reporting on the subject, listen to this podcasts started at the Utah festival last year. Click on the photo to listen and imagine how the first festival in Utah might compare to the 6th in Martinez. Don’t you live their voices? Mary’s metaphor of the wildlife riding on the beaver tail is an art project waiting to happen! And Sherry’s voice always makes me want to sit in the front for and listen! Suzanne is outstanding! Oh and while you’re listening remember that painting beaver tails and pinning the tail on the beaver are all things the learned about from us.

Click to Play

They’re stuck with us now. We’re on the calendar and they are sending a team to help lift, carry and film. I’m sure they’ll want to do a beaver viewing too! I’ll do an official announcement this weekend and let Martinez know they’re going to be on camera for beavers. Again! I heard from Sarah that they just got back from Idaho yesterday, visiting some places with beautiful beaver dams and some places that should have them but don’t because they’re always trapped and killed.They also met with Carol Evans of the BLM in Nevada and checked out their amazing habitat in Elko.

I confess to you that I am deeply excited and appropriately terrified about their coming, but every contact I’ve had with Sarah has been reassuring. When I listen to the clip yesterday I realize that this is going to be a inescapably big deal and I can only comfort myself in the usual manner by thinking critically. The very young voice behind that podcast (one of the students) gets to describe Dr. Obrien’s face as being “lined with the desert”? (!) And Dr. Fouty wears “hippie clothes?” (!!) Goodness, what does Mr. ‘Sage’ look like? No comment? Why are the women itemized in narration and not the men? We would have words. That ought to keep me focused. I can do this. I’ve been interviewed in my living room before. Don Bernier filmed me and the first ever meeting of Worth A Dam and Richard Parks used an interview for his final project at UCB school of journalism. I’ll carry on as best I can. Think of the beavers.

And speaking of distracting new kits, our bravest 2013 model was out at 7:30 on Thursday night, allowing me to catch this glimpse as he made his way up from the secondary, through the primary and back home.

His uncle provided a more relaxed photo shoot.