Archive for the ‘Environmental’ Category

“Ohhh the beaver and the rancher should be friends…”

Posted by heidi08 On October - 15 - 2016Comments Off on “Ohhh the beaver and the rancher should be friends…”


Tcapturehe Seventh Generation Institute in New Mexico does remarkable work on a pretty fierce landscape. They’ve been interested in the role beavers can play repairing water systems for a long time, and now they are working with Jon Grigg and the ranchers in Elko to release this new film on the subject. I for one  can’t wait to see it. They are using CROWDRISE to raise funds for a screening tour around areas that need it most: Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Nevada and oh yes CALIFORNIA.

Maybe after you see the trailer you’ll want to help get them started?

Trail Center presents film on ranching and beavers

ELKO — The California Trail Interpretive Center will present a free screening of a one-hour film that explores the pros and cons of beaver on ranch lands. “Rethinking Beaver: old nuisance or new partner?” will show at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

The film features local ranch manager Jon Griggs of Maggie Creek Ranch. It draws from real life experiences and unscripted interviews with him and other ranchers.

“Rethinking Beaver” explores the use of beaver as a tool to repair erosion, increase forage and overall productivity, and improve wildlife habitat on ranches.

The film was produced by Seventh Generation Institute, a nonprofit organization based in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

smallerIf Elko Nevada doesn’t have the highest beaver IQ in the state -let alone the entire west I’d be very surprised. It was where I first read about the remarkable work of Carol Evans of the BLM which introduced me eventually to Susie Creek and Jon Griggs. Carol has since retired from her BLM job but is still interested in creeks and beavers. I was trying earlier to tempt her into hitching a ride to the State of the Beaver Conference in Oregon.

img_3508_cWhen SGI isn’t making movies it’s talking directly to ranchers,  relocating nuisance beaver or leading workshops teaching how to install flow devices. They are a front lines organization with smart work and good intentions. Congratulations Catherine Wilds and our friends at Seventh Generation! We can’t to wait to see the positive effect this has.


They say a stopped clock is right twice a day…

Posted by heidi08 On October - 10 - 2016Comments Off on They say a stopped clock is right twice a day…

Sometimes folks get the details all wrong and still end up with a right answer. This article from XARALITE is one such case: they clearly dashed off this glowing piece after reading three paragraphs of the BBC Earth article without bothering to learn that this has nothing to do with the Scottish beaver trials and that these particular beavers were in fences. Well, credit for getting the theme – if not the facts.

The Return of the Eurasian Beaver

Four hundred years have passed since Britain was last home to beavers, but in 2011, the Eurasian beaver was reintroduced and now the area they’ve returned to is flourishing. In Devon lies the United Kingdom’s only beaver population; low trees and open plains provide the perfect home for the country’s largest rodents.

Prior to reintroducing the Eurasian Beaver to Britain, trials were held in Scotland to see how the beavers would cope and how they would impact the national landscape. Whilst carrying out the trials, it was found that introducing beavers would be a great way to create and maintain natural habitats. Their dams hold great bodies of water, incredibly useful for other animals too during periods of drought. Their creations also aid the quality of water and prevent flooding by holding back silt, preventing it from travelling into and disturbing other water bodies.

You know how sometimes in archeology they describe finding a fragment and make inferences about the larger artifact it represented? Like bone or pottery? Well. I’d call this an ‘article fragment’ because it literally reads like the author was attacked by bears in the middle of a sentence and couldn’t complete the thougt. But for a brief moment it gets the central idea across: Beavers make and sustain habitat.

Period. End of sentence.

Now here’s a beaver enjoying the habitat in Martinez made available to him or her by our friends at Mountain View Sanitation .  They are using night cameras to track the otter population for the river otter folk but a couple nights ago they got something even better. This is not one of the local beavers in Alhambra Creek.

MVSD is just on the other side of 680 and a fairly circuitous water route up an inlet from the Carquinez strait. Our original beavers were likely the progeny of theirs, at least our original mom who was the only one to ever build and maintain a formal lodge like the ones they boasted in the middle of the ponds out there. Maybe this is a distant cousin or a grand niece or something.

Thanks to Kelly Davidson who shared it with us and gave me permission to post it here!


Beavers discussed in New Zealand, Russia and Chicago

Posted by heidi08 On October - 9 - 2016Comments Off on Beavers discussed in New Zealand, Russia and Chicago

William Hughes-Games is a scholar and organic  farmer in New Zealand who happens to be very interested in beavers. Years ago he read about Worth A Dam in the Beavers: Wetlands and Wildlife newsletter, and we became buddies online. He also maintains a smart blog about climate change and other things, most recently about beavers and their value on the watershed. He’s far more thorough than I am so I’ll just post highlights and encourage you to go read the entire thing. You’ll be much smarter because of it.


The Otter river Beavers of England

A couple of beavers ‘appeared’ in the Otter River, on the South Coast of England in Devon.  This has resulted in three breeding pairs at present (Sept 2016).  In a great move, the Powers-that-be have allowed the introduction of a second pair further up in the catchment so that when the two populations meet, there will be greater genetic diversity in the united populations. 

Beavers do so much good for the environment and for an individual farm that you may desire to encourage them to create a pond on your farm or in the head waters of your catchment.  The only way you can increase the beaver population is by making new areas attractive to them.  The best way is to truncheoning in a new forest of deciduous trees on the banks of a stream).  Tiny seeps that hardly deserve the name of a stream can be occupied by beavers if the habitat is provided for them. Let’s catalog the benefits from beavers.

Water flow regulation
Beavers store water on the land in a number of ways.  This is particularly important in the catchment of the Otter.  The underlying strata is mainly sandstone and water doesn’t infiltrate the aquifer quickly, unlike outwash plains such as the ones found East of the Rockie Mountains in the USA or to the East of the Alps in the south island of New Zealand.  In the Otterton, most of the water from high rainfall events shoots down to the sea in a day or two.  Of course, if these are unusually high rainfall events, they cause flooding.  So how do beavers store water.

First, of course, are the ponds they create with their dams.  Depending on the topography of the particular area where they build their dams, they can store considerable water.  Beaver dams are somewhat leaky so some water is leaked downstream and water also seeps downward into the underlying strata. holding the water on the land allows time for the water to infiltrate the ‘reluctant’ aquifer.  

Secondly, the ponds raise the water table in the surrounding land.  Water tables intersect streams at the surface of the water in the stream.  As the water rises in a beaver dam, the surrounding water table rises as well.  In particularly propitious cases, a field which had to be irrigated, now doesn’t need it since the field crops can access the underlying water table.  Water then leaks back into the stream, down steam from the beaver dam.

He has lots more to say about sediment load and fish populations of course, and has wished more than once over the years that NZ had beavers. William traveled to Canada to meet Eric Collier’s son and to the UK to meet Louise and Paul Ramsay and Derek Gow. He’s a very interesting fellow who studied marinology in Israel and takes “WOOFERS” to maintain is farm (Willing Workers On Organic Farms). Go read his entire article and say hi. You won’t regret it.

As I mentioned, in all of this, the rest of England is going to be playing catch up.  Hopefully, a really intense research program will document the effects of beaver dams as they become established throughout the Otter catchment.  This will be the body of work that other catchments can point to to convince the uninformed of the benefit of the return of the beaver.

In the end it depends on the people in the Otter catchment.  If they establish favorable habitats for the Beavers, the beavers will return the favor with interest. If they avoid harming the beavers, the beavers will repay the favor with interest.

And ain’t that the truth! Thanks William.

I laughed to hear the Russian Charity beaver story on “Wait Wait don’t tell me” yesterday. Enjoy this short clip from the lightening round.





And a final comment on our current complex political system:


Beavers and Drought

Posted by heidi08 On October - 4 - 2016Comments Off on Beavers and Drought

We’re an equal opportunity employer here at beaver central. Yesterday I  wrote about Mike Callahan of Massachusetts and today I’m writing about Skip Lisle of Vermont. There was a nice article about the current drought with him (and beavers) featured.screen-shot-2016-10-04-at-6-10-06-am

The Ecological Impact Of The Current Drought

Scenes from the West’s five-year drought are striking – the cracked mud at the bottom of a dry reservoir, forests in flames. Wonder what a drought would look like in the Northern Forest? Just look out the window.

This is the first time that any part of New Hampshire has been in an “extreme drought” since the federal government began publishing a drought index in 2000, said Mary Lemcke-Stampone, the state’s climatologist. “Using state records, you have to go back to the early ‘80s to get the extreme dryness we’ve been seeing in southeastern New Hampshire.”

Other parts of the region have been abnormally dry for some time. New York State has issued a drought warning for the Southern Tier and Western New York, which is an extreme drought, while the Adirondacks remain “abnormally dry” according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Skip Lisle of Beaver Deceiver International, a beaver-control company that uses non-lethal means, said that beavers have droughts covered. “All those little dams and reservoirs keep water on the landscape,” he said. They have floods covered, too, as those same dams and reservoirs release peak flows slowly.

Intact ecosystems, Lisle said, have a way of coping. “Droughts are good. Floods are good. Dynamism is good. It’s been going on forever.”

Yes beavers are good for drought and Skip is good for beavers! Keep doing what you do saving the water-savers and we’ll do our best to write about it here. I’m curious about our own beavers at the moment. Will the arrival of autumn prompt them into starting an actual dam? They have no yearlings to help them so it much be a harder job. Although I guess all beavers everywhere have started thus at some point in their furry lives.

I hope I’m not jinxing anything by making them a video but I think we have to behave like Martinez has beavers because last time I checked it does. And it rained all day yesterday so what’s a girl to do?

Moving and Counting

Posted by heidi08 On September - 29 - 2016Comments Off on Moving and Counting

Hey guess what? The Martinez beavers saved themselves and the city throws them a yearly beaver festival!

I freely admit I complain far too much. We know its true. I’d better go on vacation right now and improve my attitude.  Thank god Mendocino will get me just in time. I’m not happy when we’re NOT mentioned as a ‘beaver success story’ – but ahem, this isn’t really a lot better.

Nature: Sonoma County beavers are watershed heroes

One great example of this win-win approach comes from Martinez, a town that learned to embrace the beavers that moved into Alhambra Creek and threatened to flood an area of town and a major transportation hub. Citizens joined forces with the city to install a simple flow-control device that allows the water to be maintained at an acceptable level without destroying the beaver dams or removing the animals.

What might have been a liability has now been turned into an asset. The city now hosts the Martinez Beaver Festival and promotes these creatures as watchable wildlife, bringing thousands of visitors and supporting the local economy.

What a relief! I thought Worth A Dam hosted that event for the last nine years.  How silly I was spending literally months planning and worrying, days with supplies in my living room, and weeks on the phone arranging things, when the city was handling all the details by itself. Whew! Maybe I’ll take a seaside vacation next August and read about it in the Press Democrat since they have made it clear Worth A Dam services aren’t required at all.

Other than these  fairly irksome paragraphs its a nice article about the beaver blitz being organized by OAEC to count beaver populations in Sonoma county. I’ll share the good bits and you should think about helping out with their beaver count if you can.

Over the next several decades, conservationists began to recognize the benefits of beavers and began advocating for an end to over-trapping, even supporting efforts to reintroduce beavers to degraded stream channels. The science began trickling in to substantiate the claim that beaver dams conserve water because, as Brock Dolman explains, they “slow it, spread it and sink it.”

“It turns out that as water backs up behind small temporary dams, it flows out across the floodplain of a stream, giving it an opportunity to water riparian forests, trap sediment and slow the water so that it has time to sink into the gravel and replenish the groundwater,” said Dolman, Occidental Arts and Ecology Center WATER Institute director. And this is only the first of many benefits.

In an effort to promote beaver stewardship, Dolman and Kate Lundquist, also of the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center WATER Institute, have been leading a statewide effort to promote beaver stewardship. They work with farmers, vineyard owners, municipalities and resource agencies across the state to share emerging techniques for receiving the watershed benefits that beavers provide while preventing property damage.

“Here in Sonoma County, we see Sonoma County Regional Parks as one of the beavers’ best hopes,” says Lundquist. “Most of the recent observations have been in or near county parks, with the most consistent cluster showing up between Maxwell Farms and Sonoma Valley Regional Parks.”

With that in mind, Lundquist is working with Regional Parks and the Sonoma Ecology Center to host a one day “blitz” of the county to look for beaver signs. On Oct. 8, observers will join teams throughout the county in the first ever “Beaver Blitz.” Register at

To learn more about beavers, visit

I’ve heard that our own Cheryl Reynolds will be joining the efforts, which is lucky for them because she is very experienced at tracking beaver sigh. It’s fun to think of what they might find. I’m not exactly sure what system they’ll use to ‘count’ beavers, since they’ll be looking for signs, dams, chews, tracks etc and that requires someones system to convert into population estimates but I wish them all the best.  Good luck Brock and Kate! I hope your count generates interest and raises awareness too.

There are a couple good beaver articles this morning. The other worth mentioning comes from Wildlife Defenders in Colorado.

Exploring with Beavers, Nature’s Ecosystem Engineers

Beavers don’t often go exploring. Perhaps only once a lifetime, when they disperse as juveniles and search for a new home and mate, do they really explore the boundaries of their world. But one beaver family recently went on quite the adventure. That family of nine beavers was captured earlier that week in the north part of Denver. Their final destination, and their new family home, was a crystal clear mountain stream about an hour south of Denver.

Beaver are nature’s ecosystem engineers, felling trees and building dams, and changing waterways for their own benefit. But they also benefit other species in the process, including humans as well as many species that are now in jeopardy at least in part due to the historic loss of beavers. Their dams help to control the quantity and quality of water downstream, which both humans and animals use. Their ponds and flooded areas create habitat for many plants and animals, such as fish, birds, insects, and amphibians. In fact, some species only live near beaver ponds. Beavers dramatically change their environment, and those changes can last for hundreds of years, even after the beaver have moved on.

This specific beaver family’s former home, a stream on the north of Denver, is slated for re-alignment this winter. The stream engineering will destroy the beaver’s home and habitat. But officials knew it would be a shame to lose the natural engineering benefits that these beavers can provide. So, Denver’s Department of Parks and Recreation contacted Wildlife2000, a local non-profit organization focused exclusively on beaver relocation, and Defenders to live-trap and relocate the beavers to a place where they would be safe and could help create important habitat for other species.

The family will probably move a little bit upstream or down, but eventually they will find the ideal spot. They will start to build a dam, creating a deeper pool for themselves where they can build a lodge, and creating habitat for other plants and animals as well. Within a year, the area around their home will be quite different; within five years, even more changed. New plants and animals will move in and take advantage of the beavers and all their hard work. Defenders will return regularly to monitor the results and learn lessons for future beaver restoration efforts. Relocating this family was a definitive win-win, for them and for all wildlife where they are making their new home.

I love this discussion of the valuable role beavers play in creeks and streams. But, as you know, I’m never entirely comfortable with the “yeah let’s move beavers and solve all our problems” article as a solution. I remarked accordingly in a comment that they decided not to print, but you know by now what it said anyway. Solve problems with flow devices and wrap trees and let the beavers stay were they are. Because the beaver population is going to keep rebounding and we’re going to run out of remote places to move them to eventually. Better to let them reintroduce themselves and use their own naturally territorial behaviors to keep others away.

Now that’s the beaver news and I am outta here!



Otterly Inspirational

Posted by heidi08 On September - 28 - 20161 COMMENT

So here’s the scoop on Ranger Rick. I heard yesterday from Brock Dolman of the OAEC and he said that they were contacted for a short piece about beavers and drought in California. I also heard from Suzi Eszterhas that our beaver article won’t be until next summer. So yes, beavers will be in RR next month, but only a little story and not our big 8-page story, which will still come next June or July.

Yesterday Rickipedia included me in an email discussion he is having with the authors of this book who are consulting him about how to research the historic prevalence of beaver in the Santa Cruz River.

Seems there aren’t many remains there either. And we’re surprised that beaver bones didn’t survive in waterways 170 years after being burned and discarded? How many fish bones did the archeologists find? Or otter bones?

Speaking of otters, there’s a really wonderful piece in the October issue of Bay Nature that features our friends at the River Otter Ecology Project and their work to document population dynamics.

After Decades Away, River Otters Make a Triumphant Return to the Bay Area

We’re peering down into a ravine carved out by Lagunitas Creek, looking for North American river otters. According to official California Department of Fish and Wildlife records, last updated in 1995, we are officially fools; there are no otters anywhere near here. They are “non-occurring,” wiped out from most of the Bay Area long ago by trapping, pollution, lack of prey, loss of habitat—any and all of the difficulties that wild animals contend with in urban areas.

But according to the data collected in the last four years by Megan Isadore and her corps of citizen otter spotters, these little fish-eating predators are all over the place, particularly here in Marin County. On the website of her small nonprofit River Otter Ecology Project, the reports of sightings pour in, from anglers and dog-walkers and nature lovers and amazed suburbanites: Hey, I just saw an otter! As of 2016, ROEP has catalogued more than 1,730 sightings and added to that tally close to 5,000 camera-trap videos and photos and roughly 1,300 samples of otter scat.

The fact that otters are back in the Bay Area of their own accord without any reintroduction program to help them looks like a reason to declare victory. It seems to be proof that cleaning up watersheds makes a difference, that restoration works, that species will bounce back if we only push hard enough. “Their recovery in the Bay Area is, I believe, the result of conservation and restoration activities: the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, all these things we

ROEP now counts otters in two ways. Anyone can report an otter sighting online by providing enough details to rule out mistakes. But that only tells you where otters are. In order to get other dimensions of information—what they’re doing, what their niche might be—the group also trains and sends out volunteers who visit specific field sites weekly throughout the summer and early fall, when mothers have brought their new pups out from their dens and most other otters tend to stay put in their territories. Using an app designed to capture otter data, volunteers record the locations of signs (latrines, paw prints, tail drag marks, slides, dens), maintain motion-activated camera traps, and review the footage to document family life and behavior. (The cameras have caught other creatures too: bobcats, a badger, a merlin, baby foxes, and once a woman skinny-dipping.)

Isadore sees otters as a way in to understanding relationships between other things—how otter prey like the endangered coho rise and fall, whether local improvements in water quality outweigh the new pressures of climate change for otters. meganAs an animal that relies on land and water, fish and fowl, it’s a species that can tie a lot together.

That’s how it works, Isadore says later: Efforts have ripples and consequences that you never anticipate. By showing a high-school student a video, you might awaken an interest in art and environment. By cleaning up a watershed, you just might find yourself surrounded by otters. “I want people to understand we have the ability to work for positive effects, as well as [have] the negative effects,” she says. “I want people to believe we have the ability to change things. That’s what I’m constantly trying to get across.”

Great work team Megan! We really didn’t realize otters were missing because we always saw them on our canoe trips (in Mendocino county) or at Jon’s work (On the Delta). This is really an outstanding and well-written article to promote your remarkable work and be inspirational to others who want to start citizen science of their own. We’re proud to say we knew you when. This is great promotion for ROEP and otters, and should help drive attention (and funding) your way. I personally am thrilled that otters can serve as the ambassadors to our creeks systems and get folks thinking of water health.

I may have ulterior motives.

(Mind you…the Martinez Beavers only merited a single page BN article after being missing from the entire bay area for 150 years and never got mentioned again even though we  did publish ground-breaking research on historic prevalence and start a festival that has 2000 attendees, and win the John Muir Conservation education award (a year after you), complete a mural and get added to the congressional record, but never mind.)

I’m not jealous.  Why do you ask?

Avoiding a beaverless state

Posted by heidi08 On September - 27 - 2016Comments Off on Avoiding a beaverless state

There are a few things to catch up on before they get away from me. First is that I was contacted by Enviormental writer Ben Goldfarb a few weeks ago who said he was writing a book about beavers for Chelsea Green Publishing and wanted to talk about the Martinez beaver story. If his name seems vaguely familiar it’s because he was the author of several important beaver articles in High Country News recently – the major one being “The Beaver Whisperer” about Kent Woodruff and the Methow project. Kent told him he should talk to me next, and we had a great chat about our story and the response we saw in the creek when the beavers moved in. He’s in the early stages of the book so we won’t get to enjoy it for ages, but I left him with a long list of people to talk to next and he was happy.

Meanwhile our eager Ranger Rick readers, waiting for their beaver story, saw an interesting clue at the end of their September issue. It started with a riddle about a beaver dam that they said would be answered next month and ended with this:captureoct-2016-adv-194x149


So does that mean we’ll see our beavers in the next issue? I don’t know. The last thing I heard from Suzi is that the issue would come next summer. But who knows? Maybe we’ll get a surprise or maybe we’ll get beavers TWICE in Ranger Rick!

And speaking of beavers fixing drought in California, here’s a result of not letting them that’s been on my mind lately. My parents lost 18 trees to the bark beetle but looking at this film I realize they are getting off lucky so far. The words Forest Succession echoing. I knew it was bad but I didn’t know it was this bad.

Here’s some of our damage: