Archive for the ‘Environmental’ Category

Nature in the City Everywhere.

Posted by heidi08 On February - 4 - 2016ADD COMMENTS

The grand plan in Vancouver is sweeping the media at the moment and there are plenty of follow ups to the story if you want to see them. Try here and here.

Yesterday I was contacted by a member of the Grosse Ille Nature and Land Conservancy about the beavers in the Detroit River. She was very happy about what the return meant, and wanted to pull together some advocates to keep things headed in the right direction. The funny thing was, I remembered writing about this back in 2012 and saying: sure they’re happy now, but wait until those beavers start chewing trees of blocking culverts.

Beavers: marginally better than pollution!

Ahhh how Nice. Okay, mark your calendars and set your clocks, because as encouraging as this article is I predict it will be a matter of months before we start reading stories about neighborhoods with blocked culverts and chopped trees. Folks are excited when beavers come BACK to an area because they assume it means they did very good things to make it possible. Hughlet Hornbeck once explained to me that the beavers coming back to Alhambra Creek was proof that EBRP had been doing the right thing for 50 years, for example.

Then industrial pollution in the mid-20th Century made the Detroit River too toxic for beaver and many other species to return. The cleanup of the river in recent decades has seen many species making a comeback.

“This is one piece of evidence,” Hartig said of the latest beaver sighting. “But if you add in there the return of lake sturgeon, the return of lake whitefish, the return of walleye, the return of bald eagles, peregrine falcons, osprey, beaver, wild celery, it’s one of the most dramatic ecological recovery stories in North America.”

Beavers are still exciting enough along the Detroit River that the reporter does an excellent job researching their history and providing context.. Enjoy it while it lasts though, because in the blink of an eye they’ll be reporting that gangs of four foot tall beavers cut down all the trees and caused tularemia.

So it’s been three years and its time for folks to get worried about their challenging handiwork, I’m glad friends are starting to get ready for an argument. We of course will help any way we can.

Speaking of helping, I got these fun photos from the Mountain House beavers in CA, and will be working with a supporter to help her put together a beaver article for the local paper. How cool are these photos for thinking about urban beaver!


mountain house lodge

Mountain House Beaver Lodge: Caitlin McCombs

And this fine example of dam building with reeds. You see beavers use material on hand.

mountain house dam

Mountain House Dam of mostly reeds: Caitlin McComb

Yesterday I learned that the city’s primary concern is that they believe the beavers are digging tunnels under the road. The city has already filled some with concrete. For the life of me I can’t think of any reason a beaver would do THAT, so I’m guessing this story is about to get very interesting!

New donation yesterday for the silent auction from Mink Works, by animator and Illustrator Marielle Rousseau of New York. How adorable is this? I ask you honestly. Go check out all her stuff. It’s delightful and she’s a self-professed wildlife lover in addition to being a real talent,

Beaver Impressive

Posted by heidi08 On February - 3 - 2016Comments Off on Beaver Impressive

Too much good news. Some days there is almost nothing to cover, and other days everything good seems to happen at once. Yesterday I found out for the first time that Patti Smith keeps a blog about her observations of wildlife. You might remember she was the gentle soul keeping an eye on the beavers of Popples Pond in Vermont. She brought some helpers to the snowy stream to reinforce their food supply yesterday.Capture

This afternoon, Margaretta and Isabelle arrived to help the stranded beavers with an offering of poplar boughs from their home in Dummerston. Once at the pond, I call to Willow and then we all sit quietly on the upside-down sled hoping that Willow won’t think it too early to come out to visit. After a few minutes, David, the lucky dad of these two great girls, spots Willow hauling herself onto the ice at one of the upstream holes.

girls&willHow much do you envy that child? Willow is such a good sport. If you’d like to read more of Patti’s adventures you should check out her blog and pick up a copy of “The beavers of Popples Pond“. You won’t be disappointed.

Now onto more good news and a fine article from Vancouver. Just in time for our urban beaver chapter, too.

Vancouver’s urban-beaver plan focuses on enhancing habitats

Several dozen beavers are thought to be living in Vancouver, some of them making themselves at home in restored marshland near the Olympic Village, and now the city’s park’s board has approved a strategy that will give them some company.

The Vancouver Park Board has approved a detailed strategy to enhance and expand coastlines, forests and wetlands across the city. The Biodiversity Strategy aims to restore 25 hectares of natural land by 2020 – much of it spread across various shorelines – as well as tackle forest restoration near the Fraser River.

“There’s lots of evidence that there are physical and mental benefits for those who access nature in their daily lives,” biologist Nick Page, of the parks board, said in an interview. “Compared to rural populations, there are few points of access to nature in the city.”

How wonderful is THAT. Of course wildlife is good for our physical and mental health. So good in fact that they might have lifted that sentence EXACTLY from my section of the chapter. I’m so envious of the beaver plan in Vancouver. The impressive thing is that they even have the chops to stand up to pressure like this.

“The problem comes when beavers start working on natural water courses,” said Wayne Goodey, a University of British Columbia lecturer with a background in animal psychology. “In general ecological principles, even a couple of animals can do a large amount of damage to the landscaping.”

Mr. Page, however, is confident that adaptation, not relocation, is the best strategy for these local beavers.

“There’s not really an opportunity for them to dam anything, and if they do, there’s very little chance of them flooding important infrastructure,” he said. “Relocation is very expensive, $10,000 each beaver. You can protect a lot of trees and clean out a lot of culverts for that price.”

 My mind is reeling from this article. What a WONDEFUL response to beavers appearing in an urban environment, and to a pompus know nothing who pretends to understand that beavers are bad for creeks. Hrmph. Think of how much our chapter will help them justify this bold decision. I am so impressed with Mr. Page. He gets a letter.

And silly Mr. Goodey does too. He apparently understands neither animals nor psychology.

Finally, I came across this yesterday and feel so irresponsible I hadn’t seen it months ago. Dietland is THE author on beavers and kind enough to donate two copies of his book to the silent auction at this year’s beaver festival. He also has done head-turning research on scent mounds, and if you ever wondered about this unique beaver behavior, you really should watch this all the way through. His video footage is fascinating.

Thank you Dr. Muller-Swarze for your lifetime of beaver research and for sharing it with us!


Right to Beaver-Life Movement gains Momentum

Posted by heidi08 On January - 31 - 2016Comments Off on Right to Beaver-Life Movement gains Momentum

There are some grim advances on the effort to get the farmer-fueled beaver shootings into the public eye in Scotland. Early in 2015 there were reports of this happening and a flurry of requests for the government to intervene and grant protected status to the animals. After some foot dragging, it looks like they finally found the right words to get it reported by the BBC. I can’t embed the news report but click on the photo to watch it on their sight.



Pregnant beavers shot by landowners in Tayside

Beavers that were heavily pregnant or had recently given birth are among those shot by landowners in Tayside. The news has led to demands for restrictions on shooting during the breeding season and renewed calls for Scotland’s beavers to receive legal protection

Experts at Edinburgh Zoo have now carried out post-mortem examinations on 23 beavers from Tayside. They concluded that 21 had been shot, although other sources have said the total number of animals killed in this way is significantly higher.

  • Two pregnant animals were shot. The size and weight of the foetuses indicates they were very near full term
  • Two other females which were shot had recently given birth
  • There were concerns about the length of time it would have taken some of the 21 animals to die
  • At least one animal contained lead shot. It is against the law to use lead shot to kill an animal in water.

Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone, deputy convener of Holyrood’s cross-party group on animal welfare, has called on ministers to “get off the fence”.

“Scottish ministers need to get off the fence, accept that beavers have a positive role to play in terms of biodiversity, and that they deserve legal protection.

Go read the whole thing, as this is a fairly thorough report. The FOIA really did its job in finding the grisly facts that would get this noticed. There has been considerable debate amongst the Tayside supporters as to whether it ultimately might make the beavers safer to offer some appropriate way to depredate legally OR whether they should just insist on humane solutions only.  I understand the dilemma.

For the record my advice is to emphasize mitigation first, but once humane solutions are exhausted to allow for responsible depredation, because folks need a reminder that there are options if all these good intentions fail. It took me a while to tolerate language like “sometimes trapping is necessary” but I got there. Because it ultimately helps beavers for people to feel like they have an alternative.

I just think it should be a lot harder to get there.

Here’s some of  what I wrote for the conclusion of our urban chapter. As I don’t know whether any of it might survive editing, I’m going to share.

It is our hope that in the future, when the inevitable occurs, this chapter can serve as a reminder to fully consider potential benefits and costs before a decision is made regarding the fate of these uninvited guests.While lethal solutions may at times continue to be necessary, we believe our urban waterways are often failed by the inability to recognize other viable options.

We wish our good friends in Scotland the very best of luck figuring this out. But getting the issue into the public eye is, as usual, the most important step.

subcommitteeA follow-up to the Mountain House beaver issue discussed Friday. I heard from the concerned resident who contacted me that she was asked by the official I spoke with to pull together an ad hoc committee to study the arguments.

Muhammad goes to the Mountain House

Posted by heidi08 On January - 29 - 2016Comments Off on Muhammad goes to the Mountain House

mh_map_finalIf the name Moutain House sounds vaguely familiar it should. In the turmoil of 2008 it had the dubious distinction of appearing in the NYT as the community with the most homes “Under Water” financially. More recently they had other water issues to deal with, when their historic source was cutoff and they had to scramble to find a new one.

I wonder if you can guess how they feel about  ‘watersavers’?

35659917Yesterday I received a panicked email from a resident worried that the beavers in Mountain House creek were going to be trapped. Of course the creek was being used by the planned community as a handy drain, and they didn’t want anything backing up the water. She didn’t know who was in charge of the decision to depredate but she said Brian Lucid was on the Community Services District and interested in learning about options.

The appropriately named Brian Lucid is a native San Franciscan and 20-year veteran who served in Iraq before running for a seat on the board. When he actually contacted ME yesterday I was starting to get a little hopeful.

He told me about their concerns and talked about beavers blocking the water and nibbling neighbor’s trees. And I told him how Martinez had dealt with similar concerns a decade ago, and how downtown businesses were worried about  flooding, and how we had studied the issue and  decided what to do. I told him about the beaver population rebounding all over the state, and getting new beavers very soon if he gets rid of these ones. And I told him how when we decided to install a flow device and let the beavers stay they kept any other beavers from moving into our creek.

“Flow device?” He asked. “What’s that?”

So I told them about controlling vertical growth of a dam, and protecting culverts, and how 10 years ago there was no one trained in this work in the state and we had to bring in Skip Lisle from Vermont to do it for us. But now, there were several people trained in CA and the whole thing would probably cost about 500 for materials. Worth A Dam could even help with a scholarship. I even sent him a copy of Mike’s DVD.

He  mentioned that he was a backpacker and appreciated wildlife, and was interested to hear about the role beavers play for salmon, steelhead, groundwater recharge, biodiversity, nutrient cycling, and climate change resilience. We talked about the controversy and the resolution, how our creek never went dry when the beavers were here. How beavers were great for teaching children about nature and science and mentioned our annual beaver festival. Then I sent him a big care package of information and said I would be happy to answer questions or connect him with the answers. I also suggested he might talk to Mark Ross or Lara Delaney to get the city’s perspective. He was eager to talk with his general manager, because in his words “it sounded like a no-brainer”.

Heidi Happy!

Not that this means everything’s solved and Mountain House beavers are out of the woods. It’s just a beginning.Lots of obstacles could hinder Mr. Lucid along the way. One swallow doesn’t make a summer, they say.

But summer has never come without at least one somewhere. So it’s a start.

Then I arranged a speaking date with Pinole Rotary who wanted to hear about the Martinez beavers and get the story first hand. Since there are eager beavers in Rodeo they must be on their way to Pinole next – I say not a moment too soon!


Napatopia history makes the NYT

Posted by heidi08 On January - 26 - 2016Comments Off on Napatopia history makes the NYT

In the Napa Valley, future landscapes are viewed in the past.

“The project also created new ecological niches. No one knew there were once beavers on the river, for instance. But researchers at the institute found an entry in a fur trapper’s journal from 1833: “Found a few beaver,” it said, an assertion corroborated by references from historical studies.

So the rodents have been allowed to re-establish their dams, including one within view of downtown Napa. The dams will slow erosion and create deep pools, offering a nursery for young fish — some of them threatened — and helping rebuild the river.

Ahem. Cough. Er… you mean those historical studies done by US??? Yeah, yeah, yeah. Robin gets to sell the book AND be in the NYTimes  and Napatopia gets to keep its beavers, but hey. An oblique reference to our hard work is plenty.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m plenty happy about this article. Besides, Napa restoration was 20 years hard work in the making, with partners from every part of the aisle and grueling weekly meetings that must have taken watershed saints to attend. So Napa deserves its thunder.  Go enjoy the whole article.

And we have our own little victories to celebrate. I heard yesterday from Heyday books which is publishing Beth Pratt’s California collection and is going to include a section on our Martinez beavers. They want permission to use a fine photo of FRO working with two children to paint that wonderful giant beaver!

And I heard from  illustrator Alex Perlin that she would happily donate to the auction, which obviously makes me very, very happy indeed.

Illustration of the campfire classic: Land of the Silver Birch.

It wasn’t me, I swear!

Posted by heidi08 On January - 25 - 2016Comments Off on It wasn’t me, I swear!

Tragedy has struck a nice Canadian neighborhood. I’m sure the Mounties are interviewing the usual suspects. I anticpate a phone call any minute.

Beaver bench stolen from central Edmonton neighbourhood


All that’s left of the Holdsworths’ prized beaver bench, that just last week sat proudly in front of their Inglewood home, is splinters and drag marks. You could say the evidence proving foul play is “dam-ing.” 

“I think that somebody obviously saw it,” said owner Sue Holdsworth. “They scoped it out, saw how hard it was to remove and came prepared with tools, a truck, and chain and probably yanked it out.”

The Holdsworths commissioned the beaver bench from artist Joe Renaud in 2007.

Holdsworth says they wanted a bench because her mother-in-law would come from England and couldn’t walk very far around the neighbourhood without having to sit down. This prompted her husband to commission the bench. 

“He really did it just in the interest of making the neighbourhood more walkable,” said Holdsworth, “and for him it was really boring just to have a bench, so he called for a piece of public art.”

Sad times are these when passing hooligans can steal a beaver bench at will! What were the neighbors doing anyway? And why didn’t they notice a truck hauling away a beaver bench with a chain? Hmm. Maybe they paid him or her to do it. It’s not the loveliest likeness I’ve ever seen.  I mean it’s not THIS, for instance.

giant beaver 016More clues that this beaver campaign is catching on. Here’s a letter from someone named Penelope M. Blair from Moab Utah. The best part is that I don’t recognize her name or know anything about her. I love when we find friends we never knew we had!

Beaver believer

quoeRegarding Avery McGaha’s wetland article (“A desert oasis, lost and found,” HCN, 12/21/15):   Instead of cattails, the cienega should have native willows and cottonwoods. Instead of messing around with logs and dams of his own making, A.T. Cole should import some beavers. The beavers belong in that ecosystem and would do a much better job of restoring it. They can even take an arroyo, with intermittent water, and make dams with mud and stones and bring it back to a healthy system. If Mr. Cole would use the help of beavers instead of trying to be a human beaver, he wouldn’t have to worry about floods; the beavers would prevent those. The areas where beavers are allowed to do their thing are amazing. Yeah, beavers!

Penelope M. Blair
Moab, Utah


A sister from another mister! My long lost twin! Nicely done, Penny. I think Penelope must be friends with someone we know. Last I heard  one Mary Obrien lived in Moab Utah, so maybe they have coffee together every Tuesday morning. It doesn’t matter. She’s obviously family, and I’m thrilled she said what needed to be said!

No new products today, as no one decided to be generous yesterday, although there were many candidates. One thing that we CAN celebrate is that Robin of Napa agreed to do the bid sheets again for the auction, and that is a truly wonderful thing. She did a stellar job last year, and you have no idea how strangely it affects you brain to write things like  this over and over!

Adorable handmade ceramic beaver ornament. Decorate with style while showing your support for beavers. You may need more than one!

Thanks Robin!

Water, water everywhere. (Napa version)

Posted by heidi08 On January - 20 - 2016Comments Off on Water, water everywhere. (Napa version)

You think you’re sick of all this rain, imagine how the beavers feel. In  Napa  the Tulocay creek beavers have been dealing with the deluge as best they can. It’s true, they aren’t in danger of drowning, but lord knows it’s not convenient when your office and home are suddenly under water in the middle of a sound sleep. At least they have two defenders looking out for them. Thanks Robin Ellison and Rusty Cohn for sending this my way.

Here’s Robin’s footage of what the dam looked like at noon yesterday.

It lodgedidn’t take long until that entire beautiful lodge was underwater. Which means the beavers inside got a rude  awakening and had to scramble to dry ground to finish  their hard earned sleep. I almost felt relieved for the first time that we didn’t have our own beavers to worry about. Almost. Rusty snapped this around the same time.


If you’ve ever had one of those crazy late nights where you slept on TOP of your covers, you know how these beavers were feeling. Just like folks climbed onto their rooftops during Katrina, beavers wisely climbed to up their lodge to escape the flooding. I wonder if the parents leave the dry lodge top for the kits to use, and negotiate the bank themselves? Check out this bit of heroism Rusty filmed moments later.

After a day of hard work and calamity there is really only one thing to be done:


Beaver kit sleeping on lodge: Rusty Cohn

Stay dry beavers and beaver-watchers! The sun has to come soon.


More good news yesterday from Dana Zambrano of CrochemecrayZ in Rochelle, NY.  When I saw her work I knew it would make the perfect christmas gift. Later when I saw how delightful the actual work was I didn’t hesitate to boldly beaverbeg for the silent auction. She was kind enough to agree, and might even be inspired try a beaver kit set. Ooh!  Here let me show you what I’m talking about. izzy fox(And yes, that’s my grandniece, and in case you’re wondering, she’s a genius.)