Archive for the ‘Earth Day’ Category

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.

“The sun shines not on us but in us.”

Posted by heidi08 On April - 21 - 2013Comments Off

Okay imagine this times a couple thousand, and the following conversation over and over again with children, soccer moms, fishermen, birdwatchers, politicians, and lanky teens, so you will have some idea of what we did yesterday at John Muir’s birthday Earth day celebration.

It was a wonderful, bright, blur of a day. FRO and her daughter worked tirelessly helping children illustrate our newest idea – a giant wind sock that can hang at the beaver festival! Lory and Jean helped get things organized and answer questions. Cheryl tirelessly took photos. Jon managed better than usual with the heavy lifting, and I talked to a fairly uninterrupted stream about why beavers matter. As always it was particularly heartening to be in a community that remembered so much about the story and took such personal responsibility for it. One young woman even remembered having spoken at the November meeting as a child 6 years ago after asking for permission to speak early because of her homework  and bedtime.  Another teen with a lip ring excitedly explained to his friend about Grey Owl and how he had tried to teach people about beavers way back when. Even better to see the story reach new ears, and really make people think earnestly about whether beaver problems could be solved in new ways. It was exciting to connect with some key players and emphasize what a vital role beavers and their dams play for birds, fish and other wildlife.

The day flew by. It hurdled at such breathtaking speed that I could only tell how long we’d been there by the amount of water I gulped in between spiels, how full the flag was getting with children’s drawings, and where the shade moved to. I was happy to think of Enos Mills (the author of In Beaver World) having dinner at the John Muir house in 1908 on his visit, and maybe even thinking (while he was listening to the great conservationist himself talk about Yosemite or wild places) of the title for his last chapter of his book where he calls beavers “The Original Conservationists” because unlike Hetch Hetchy the dams they make do so much good for the world.

Thanks John Muir, National Park staff, Teddy Roosevelt, JMA, countless musicians and children and parents of Martinez or beyond, for an ecologically amazing day.


Just in case you need MORE good news on this fine April morning, check out the latest entry on the  NOAA Fisheries home page!

Beavers: Mother Nature’s First River Restoration Engineers

Until recently, the role of beavers in maintaining healthy river ecosystems was not well understood or appreciated. Not everyone wants beaver dams in their backyard! But the same things beavers do naturally—cut down trees, dam up water, flood riverbanks—are exactly what we are trying to do to improve habitat for Pacific salmon.

That’s why beaver reintroduction is identified as a priority action in the Upper Columbia Spring Chinook Salmon and Steelhead Recovery Plan. The Methow Valley Beaver Reintroduction Project is relocating them from places where they are unwanted, and moving them to places where beavers can be part of the solution to salmon recovery.

Stop by and say ‘Hi’!

Posted by heidi08 On April - 20 - 2013Comments Off

And even if you can’t make it in person, enjoy an update on the San Jose beavers!

Just in time for Earth day!

Posted by heidi08 On April - 18 - 2013Comments Off

I’m not talking about John Muir, Aldo Leopold, Howard Zanhiser or Teddy Roosevelt. The greatest conservationist is the beaver (Castor canadensis), the largest rodent in North America.

Nice column from Paul Andersen of the Aspen Times. I am always thrilled when new believers preach the beaver gospel. Do you think he’s a friend of Sherri Tippie? Or do you think he’s just  enormously observant?

Ethically, we owe the beaver his due as a co-inhabitant. Practically, we need the beaver to restore river systems and retain storage. This is particularly critical as climate change and weather modification threaten streamflows and all the life that depends on healthy rivers.

As for the efficacy of the beaver as an engineer, there is nothing like it. Its dams are resilient, its lodges are impregnable, and its uncanny phonetic trigger to the sound of running water keeps it perpetually motivated to plug holes and slow the flow.

He goes on to cite wikipedia about Glynnis’ Alberta study and the importance of beavers to water storage. Honestly, I could make a cup of tea and sit and read this column all day. Preferably with a class photo of all our beaver friends he’s quoting. Obviously he’s been influenced by own own wikipedia Rick!

Regarded as a “keystone” species, beavers are known to increase biodiversity by forming wetlands and riparian habitats, which are the foundation of most other ecosystems.

Even their gnawing of trees has been linked to riparian health as more diverse and healthier foliage replaces woods and shrubs cut by beavers. Here is the ultimate, renewable, sustainable life cycle.

I like Patrick’s idea of low dams. I would like it even better if we let the beavers build them.

Great work Paul! You obviously know beavers are Worth A Dam. Don’t hesitate to look us up if you need anything in the futher!  Oh, and one more thing:

The greatest conservationist is the beaver (Castor canadensis), the largest rodent in North America.”

You do realize your quoting here, right? Check out the title of the last chapter of Enos Mills “In beaver World”. It was published 100 years ago and may have something to say on the subject. If you’ve never read it I would suggest you check it out!

It never rains, but it pours!

Posted by heidi08 On March - 27 - 2013Comments Off

Do you remember being a kid and running home so excited to tell a story that you could barely find the breath to carry your announcement? Maybe you wanted to get home before your brother so that you could tell it FIRST! This is how I feel this morning, but I will exercise a modicum of self control and tell you the most exciting news LAST because that’s the kind of girl I am.

Yesterday I received my April-June copy of Bay Nature and guess what I found on page 11? Very nice colors and eye-catching location. The undeniably first of its kind advertisement for a beaver festival they have ever had. Indeed, probably the first ad for a wildlife festival of any kind. Nice.

I know what you’re thinking. How can you possibly top that? Well, how about a positive beaver article from Texas? Yes, Texas.

Walls: Beavers have value in conservation

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, beavers were hunted extensively for the value of their pelts. By 1910, their populations became dramatically low in many parts of the United States. So low that strict regulation of their harvest was implemented. Their value as soil and water conservationists is well known by many educated land owners and sportsmen.

Mind you, its no High Country News or Canadian National Geographic, but its definitely note worthy from a state that is generally known for beaver badness. All good things have to start somewhere, and I hope we see more and more beaver ecology coming from the Lone Star State.

Which leads me to our third good news of the day, and the most exciting piece yet. First some context. Back in 2010 I was invited to speak about our beavers at the Santa Clara Creeks Coalition Conference, which was a delightful day that introduced me to some fantastic advocates. One of the folks who attended my talk and got excited about beavers was the executive director  of the Guadalupe River Conservancy in San Jose. She introduced me to some folks who introduced me to some folks who got me invited to the California State Parks conference that year. She donated handsomely to us in 2011 and also really, really wanted to build a network of support for beavers in the Guadalupe, just in case she could get permission to introduce some down the road.


Guess what was just spotted  beside the river near a certain aquatic-predator named team’s silicon valley stadium?

Oh and it looks like the world might be changing today.