Archive for the ‘Environmental’ Category

Wisconsin’s handicapped fish

Posted by heidi08 On May - 26 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

disabled fish

Apparently the badger state is asking for more public input on its very draconian beaver management plan. I want to review it but can see I already wrote about it pretty scathingly in 2011. I’ll repost here, but the two added things I learned by watching the excruciating webinars was that WDNR believes their state is exceptional. Even though trout are helped by beaver dams in the west, it’s different in Wisconsin. Nobody can explain why exactly, but beaver dams and trout CANNOT coexist in the state. So obviously one has to go.

(And you know which one.)

They believe that the beaver population has gone UP since historic times. They actually do a helicopter flyover every three years in the northern part of the state and count beaver sign per square mile. This inflated method has given them an estimate of about 50,000 beavers in the state, or about 100 per square mile of water. Which they say is dreadfully more than it was historically but less than it was before they started killing them.

Oh, and just in case you wondered, history starts in 1900.

DNR seeks input on final beaver management guidelines

The Wisconsin DNR wants to know if it has the right plans for beavers in the state. The final public feedback period is open for the new beaver management plan.

 The document will guide decisions on beavers through 2025. The final draft touches on topics like population, habitat, and damage management. The current draft recommends keeping beaver populations mostly stable in the state.

Public input for the final beaver management plan is open through June 22. The DNR will also host a public meeting on June 16 from 6-8 p.m. at the DNR Service Center in Rhinelander to take comments.

 That’s right, there’s zero discussion of the native population and how many beaver were there before the fur trade came. Did you know the french were trapping Wisconsin as early as 1600? Gee I wonder how the natives lived off trout before then, with all those icky beavers ruining their creeks and no one to control them. Never mind. Since they’ve been killing beavers in the state the trout population has thrived. Of course it couldn’t be for any OTHER reason. Like water quality regulations for example…

Beaver Management Plan Update Webinar from UWEXNaturalResources on Vimeo.

Yesterday I was ranting at the computer watching the above and this, but today I’m just going to rerun what I wrote 4 years ago on the subject. They obviously learned nothing since then. If you want to give Wisconsin the benefit or your knowledge, your much needed wisdom  goes here:


“The Badger State” has decided to update its beaver policy. See in the 80′s they counted a beaver population of 200,000 and did some research that found that removing beaver dams from streams was the single best thing Wisconsin could do for its trout, so they’ve been doing so at such a great rate that there are only about 80,000 beavers left in the state. Is that too few, they wonder? Did we do TOO good a job? Mind you, they’re review of the policy isn’t prompted by any new reading of the research, or comprehension of the trickle down effect of fewer beavers on wetland ecology – but because (this is a quote, I’m not kidding)

“Certain user groups are concerned that the recreational opportunity provided by beaver is not what they’d like to see,”

“User Groups” as in TRAPPERS. There aren’t enough beaver to enjoyably kill. Maybe we should change our regulations to encourage a few more so that our sporty sportsmen have fewer empty snares. They are busily having meetings with the public to get input about attitudes towards beavers and soothe the ruffled feathers – er, scales – of the Trout Unlimited folk who are certain the beaver mean harm to trout.

Steve Avelallemant, of Rhinelander, is the fisheries supervisor for the DNR’s Northern Region, and he admitted that beaver dams can be a problem, especially on trout streams in northern Wisconsin.


“They (beaver and trout) just cannot exist together for a host of reasons,” said Avelallemant, who helped shape the state’s original beaver plan. “Out West, beavers are a good thing for trout streams. In Wisconsin, not so much.

Beaver and trout just can’t exist together!And since trout are non-negotiable, beavers must be limited! Never mind that up until they were eradicated before the 1800′s the state used to have millions more beaver. Interestingly, before we eliminated the local natives they had lived off plentiful trout streams for 2000 years and never complained of the shortage. Never mind history. Never mind about all that “fancy-pants” research that says beavers are good for trout. This is WISCONSIN. Our streams are different. Our trout are different. We have our OWN research. Just look.

Well, this looks interesting. Go get some coffee. That’s a pretty long study period. Let’s take a look at what it says, shall we?

Okay, no skimming allowed. you HAVE to read this. Beaver dams raise the water temperature, and ruin channels and bring in riff-raff fish that eat up all the insects AND attract wildlife that eat up all the trout. Wow. And most of the research cited is from the Eisenhower era. So we know it must be true.

The study goes on to review several different methods of stream restoration and to compare these methods by region around the state. Marinette county seems to be the segment designated as the no-beaver zone and USDA kindly removed all the dams (and beavers) in these areas. Then the measures were taken again after the streams had time to get used to their new no-beaverness. Guess what! The beaverless streams did better!

I know I’M excited! Don’t I look excited? I was so excited I wrote them a four page paper in response, which if you’re the kind of person that cares you can read here. In the meantime I will tell you that I got very interested in this particular “region” which was the only part of the study devoted to beaver killing and showing stellar results. Since I’ve read beaver research in the post-Eisenhower period, I was very curious about their findings. I hunted around the internet looking for possible confounding variables – and found that the nearby Menominee River was the proud home of the Ansul chemical company that made Sufur Dioxide and was sued for releasing Arsenic into the water for around 50 years. Around that time of this study the EPA busily was forcing them to clean up the ground water and build protective berms over the poisonous sediment. Hmm.

Could THAT have anything to do with trout health ya think?

So while I was busy smacking my forehead and reliving the plot of Silkwood, Rick went hunting for data on trout and beaver. He found this lovely restocking guide from the Vermont Fish & Wildlife conservation group. See Vermont’s worried about its native trout too, so they’re encouraging watershed groups to put in some baby ones (called fry) to keep the streams going. They have some GREAT advice about how to do it. Check it out.

So apparently if you live in opposite ends of the country in Washington or Vermont beaver dams are good for trout. But if you have the misfortune to live in Wisconsin they’re just AWFUL. So awful in fact that only scientific papers from 50 years ago are courageous enough to trumpet their disaster. DNR has a lovely little survey asking for public input on beavers, with searching, unbiased questions like to “how badly do beavers ruin your fishing season? very badly – not sure – or only slightly badly” And “on a scale of 1-5 how much do you dislike beavers when they viciously chew down your trees and flood your property”. Not a push-poll in any way, they are respected scientists! Perhaps a few readers of this website will give that survey the careful responses it deserves.

How does California feel about beaver dams and trout or salmon? Well Brock Dolman sent this picture yesterday of the fourth annual release of 170 adult Coho into Salmon Creek Watershed in Sonoma County which he made sure to photograph along side a beaver puppet to make his point.

Could Wisconsin possibly maintain its stubborn position in the face of all this data to the contrary? You know badgers are famous for not giving up even losing battles. Reportedly, their skeletons are sometime found with their jaws still locked together in combat. I guess they don’t call it the “Badger” state for nothing.

Oh and Happy Solstice, by the way! Since today’s another no burn day you can’t have a fire all night to keep up your spirits on the longest night of the year, but light a candle anyway and dream about new possibilities for beavers coming soon!

World Wildlife Federation promotes Beavers

Posted by heidi08 On May - 22 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

CaptureSara Moore is a Sonoma-based climate writer and blogs for the WWF climate report. Guess what she decided to talk about in this issue?

California: The Rebeavering

The California case for beaver reintroduction is picking up steam.

Specifically, the case is being made for the benefits of beaver dams and their ponds to California’s high Sierra, where a disappearing snowpack is threatening the state’s summer water supply—and overall economy.

California faces peculiar beaver-reintroduction barriers not faced by other western states where people are starting to think of beaver ponds as a landscape restoration and surface water retention tool, like Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. And drought-plagued California might gain particular benefit from a new surface water retention tool.

Sara goes on to do a fairly deft recap of the beaver nativity issue and the research we did to prove it, and then even makes room for one particular city that decided to live with beavers.

Although individual cases of conflict can be solved (as they did famously in Martinez, CA, now the home of an annual Beaver Festival), there is a lack of information in favor of beavers as a way to solve problems. 

Thanks for the mention, but I think you’re wrong about missing information. We have tons of research on beaver benefits to salmon and riparian and carbon. What we’re missing is broadcasting and persuasion. There was a time I thought that more information would change peoples thinking, but now I realize that when people say ‘more research is needed’ they’re usually just stalling or looking for funding. There are about 20 people in the entire state whose minds could be changed by research about beavers. The rest are going to learn by watching, seeing, or getting public pressure. Come to Martinez and see for yourself.

The article ends on a cheery note:

So, the CDFW is cautiously showing interest in what the beaver believers have to say. There appears to be momentum behind locating and evaluating populations for possible increased protection. Sierra mountain meadows and their far-downstream neighbors, thirsty ranches and farms, may eventually see the benefits.

Hurray for beavers! Hooray for Brock and hurray for WWF. We need folks all over to be seriously thinking about this issue, at this starts the conversation nicely. If people want to learn more Sara has a great list of references at the end for further information and this introduces folks to the issues  very well. When you beaver photo gets into the WWF calendar I’ll consider it a real victory!


Can I complain now?

(I spoke with Sara back in April and our conversation was kind of unsettling. Of course I referred her to all the sources named in the article, and gave her background about all the states that allowed relocation. To tell the truth though, I’m surprised Martinez made it in at all, because she really wasn’t interested in solving beaver problems. She was interested in Relocation and couldn’t understand why I didn’t think it was the best idea EVER. As you can see, Worth A Dam, or my actual name appear nowhere in the piece, even when she refers to the papers we wrote on which I was second author (grr) – I guess I should be happy to get a link, and several links to articles on this website, an information source apparently so useful it isn’t even mentioned.)

This is me shaking it off. (Video of grooming beaver from Rusty Cohn at Tulocay beaver pond in Napa.)


A silly thing and three special things

Posted by heidi08 On May - 17 - 20151 COMMENT

First the silly thing….

Beaver cuts tree down, starts grass fire south of Saskatoon

Capture SASKATOON – A beaver caused a large grass fire Saturday, according to the Saskatoon Fire Department. The blaze was located near Valley Road, south of the city near The Berry Barn.  The fire department says the animal chew ed down a poplar tree which fell on a power line.

Those beaver arsonists are the worst! Smoking in bed, starting fires with their appetizer course, with zero regard for personal property. They obviously don’t know how hard it is to put up those power lines in the first place.

Now, let’s share in the wondrous developments at the Napa beaver pond, where Rusty has been patiently waiting for a glimpse of the new kits. Of course while he’s waiting there’s lots to see. Check out this weekends bounty.

He even got video of two otters at the sight having a little tussle. Megan of ROEP thinks it mighthave something to do with mating. How exciting!

Now for this truly stunning photograph brought to my attention by someone I can’t yet bring to your attention. Isn’t this BEAUTIFUL?

kit ride

This is the kind of photo that every wildlife watcher dreams of getting. That perfect moment when opportunity crosses your path and everything goes right. He writes that it’s a mother carrying her kit, which is a fair assumption. But we in Martinez know it might not be true. The most stunning footage I ever got was dad carrying both kits. And we only know that because of mom’s beautiful tail clue.

This is the kind of photo that saves beavers, so I hope Jeff doesn’t mind too much if I share. You can see Jeff’s remarkable work on flickr here.

And finally the best for last. Now pull up a chair and gather close because this is really important. First, a little background. In the films about Grey Owl they describe him doing a special call to bring the beavers. The way a duck call brings ducks. Which I would have ignored as silly if I hadn’t also read in a book about someone who hand-reared kits in Canada who said that their brother was a trapper and he taught her to call beavers. She noted that it was so powerful she would never teach anyone else because she didn’t want trappers to use it. So I was curious.

And then there’s Bernie Krause’s amazing recording of the beaver after the dam and his family was blown up. It sounds very much like he is mourning. But I after I heard it I always wondered if he was calling to find them. (Which is what we would do if our homes were blown up and we weren’t sure if our family members were inside.) I discussed this idea with him, but he was fairly disinterested. But then yesterday – out of NOWHERE – I stumbled on this.

I know that readers of this site mostly don’t click on the videos. Life is busy and who has time? Believe me when I say you want to see this. (I was so scared it would end badly I practically watched it with my eyes closed the first time. But nothing bad happens, trust me.) And this is really, really worth your time.

(I trust if you know any trappers, you won’t show it to them.) And honestly, don’t practice this call on our beavers because they’ve been through enough. But isn’t that amazing? Do you realize what this means? It means parents call kits. And beavers call each other. I am sure this is a youngish beaver, looking for his family. What surprised me was not only that it existed, but how very different the sound is from a kit whining. Almost like loud nasal mooing. Also I could hear the similarity in the young beaver answers, and hear how similar it is to our kits whining. It made me think that beaver kits are imitating adult speech – just like children!

Honestly, this is a big deal. Such a big deal that I got an email last night from Bernie Krause himself.

Free, furry nitrate-removal kits.

Posted by heidi08 On May - 15 - 2015Comments Off

Wetlands continue to reduce nitrates

Wetlands created 20 years ago between tile-drained agricultural fields and the Embarras River were recently revisited for a new two-year University of Illinois research project. Results show an overall 62 percent nitrate removal rate and little emission of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas.

Slowing down the rate of flow of the water by intercepting it in the wetland is what helps to remove the nitrate,” says Mark David, a University of Illinois biogeochemist in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. “The vegetation that grows in the wetland doesn’t make much of a difference because the grasses don’t take up much nitrogen. It’s just about slowing the water down and allowing the microbes in the sediment to eliminate the nitrate. It goes back into the air as harmless nitrogen gas.”

I’m so glad Illinois is looking into this. We really need to understand the ways to fix our streams. The EPA says that nitrates are leftovers from all the fertilizers and rodenticides farmers use. And that if the get into wells or groundwater they can cause illness in children or cancer at higher levels.

Exposure to nitrates and nitrites at levels above health-based risk values has adverse health effects on infants and children. The health effect of most concern to the U.S. EPA for children is the “blue baby syndrome” (methemoglobinemia) seen most often in infants exposed to nitrate from drinking water used to make formula.

Exposure to higher levels of nitrates or nitrites has been associated with increased incidence of cancer in adults, and possible increased in cidence of brain tumors, leukemia, and nasopharyngeal (nose and throat)  

As a rule Americans are against turning our babies blue or giving ourselves cancer. So we really, really want to get rid of nitrates when we can. And it turns out that just slowing down the water by making wetlands is a better way to do that than just about anything else. Even better than plants. Even better than building expensive bioreactors.

“Farmers generally prefer to install bioreactors because they don’t take up much space,” Gentry says. “A wetland requires about 3 to 4 percent of the drainage area. So, for a 100-acre field, you’d need about 4 acres in wetland. Although bioreactors don’t use much land, they also don’t slow the water enough during high flows. Research on their performance is still underway. Because water tends to be in the wetlands for a much longer time period, they are more effective.”

Wow, wetlands work harder for longer and they are supremely effective at getting rid of nitrates. We really need them! The article doesn’t mention it but they also have all these added benefits as a buffer zone for huge storms, and a stopping place for migratory birds, or habitat for wildlife. We should be working hard to protect them since they do this important work. Maybe giving a tax credit to farmers  that allow them?

The article also doesn’t mention a certain rodent that actually makes and maintains these valuable wetlands for free. Its name escapes me now. What was it called again?

I think it started with a ‘B’?

Mudding the dam Cheryl Reynolds

Mudding the dam Cheryl Reynolds

Thanks to BK for sending this my way.

Forbidden Data: Wyoming just criminalized citizen science.

“The new law makes it a crime to gather data about the condition of the environment across most of the state if you plan to share that data with the state or federal government. The reason? The state wants to conceal the fact that many of its streams are contaminated by E. coli bacteria”

Justin Pidot for Slate

Everyone interested in water should be interested in this news from  the cowboy state, where the governor signed SF0015 into law making it illegal for any citizen to collect data on open lands or water anywhere in the state without express permission from the polluting landowner to do so.

“Resource data” means data relating to land or land use, including but not limited to data regarding agriculture, minerals, geology, history, cultural artifacts, archeology, air, water, soil, conservation, habitat, vegetation or animal species.

Got that? So no Friends of Alhambra Creek water quality or student soil samples will be allowed unless the landowner specifically says so, which I’m sure if there was anything wrong they’d be happy to do right? Because people love to have it pointed out to them when their oil well is seeping or quarry chemicals are leaking.

Here’s a very good summary of the law and it’s specifics.

One area that has been an issue for concern all over the state is E Coli in streams, generally caused by cattle spending too much time where they shouldn’t be. This cheerful bacteria, as you know, can cause illness or even death. The WWP (Western Watersheds Project) has been spending a lot of time on this issue and Ranchers are particularly eager for them to stop it. Now they can finally make sure that anyone looking for unpleasant things will stay out, or even if the sneaky do-gooders manage to find something, it can never be used in court.


No resource data collected in violation of this section is admissible in evidence in any civil, criminal or administrative proceeding.


Resource data collected in violation of this section in the possession of any governmental entity as shall be expunged by the entity from all files and data bases, and it shall not be considered in determining any agency action.

I cannot possibly imagine what greater protection they could be giving to  the polluters than this. It is officially illegal to look for wrong-doing or report it, but even if you do, the facts you find will never be admissible or used in any way expect for  your own prosecution.

You’ve heard of protections for whistle-blowers? Apparently not in Wyoming.



So close and yet so far…

Posted by heidi08 On May - 12 - 2015Comments Off

There’s very encouraging news out of Alberta this morning, where Lorne Fitch is holding an all-day workhop on beaver management and benefits. He’s the provincial riparian expert at the extremely beaver-progressive Cows and Fish  which has done so much for beaver education in the province.Capture

Beaver education presented by Lorne Finch

A May 21 workshop will help educate landowners, municipal officials and anyone interested in the impacts of beavers on the surrounding area will be held May 21 at the Cremona Community Hall.

 “Beavers bring challenges, but they also bring benefits,” said Finch. “The challenge is what is the balance between the two?”

The purpose of the workshop is to highlight the impact Canada’s national animal has on watersheds in the area surrounding Cremona, values beavers provide for the community and issues and challenges presented by beavers.

“It has become recognized by many ecologists that beavers are one of the tools that help us adapt to climate change,” said Finch. “We recognize that climate is changing, it’s becoming more variable and uncertain. In some cases the climate manifested as weather events (that are) quite violent.”

 Finch said beavers have helped maintain safety for communities whether there is a drought or a flood. In the case of a flood beaver dams help moderate or dampen flood flows, while during a drought they naturally help store water and controls the effects of low stream flow conditions.

One of the key segments that will be offered during the workshop offers insight to better understand beaver ecology.

A whole day of beaver education? Don’t you want to be there? Cows and Fish has made a name for itself by straight talking right to the ranchers themselves. They have done amazing job making the smart beaver research done by Dr. Hood and others available at the hands-on level.  They have a great relationship with the media and they know how to use it well, and are firmly committed to letting beaver do their restoration all over the province. This video introduces there long-term restoration goals, and is nicely done. (Even if it DOES sport a famous muskrat photo….sheesh.)

It’s hard to understand how such a significant beaver IQ could plummet so dramatically if the boundary is crossed into the next province over, Saskatchewan. 850 miles from the Cremona, the even less populated untown of Kellross is doing everything it can to get rid of beavers. (Everything it can without actually learning, I mean.)

 Beavers are a nightmare for some in rural Saskatchewan

 Provincially, beaver numbers are up as well. The beaver control program is an initiative of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, with help from the province.

In 2014, a total of 37,645 beaver tails were turned in — a significant jump (about 56 per cent) from the 27,653 beaver tails submitted in 2013.

Despite the aggravation they cause, Patterson still has a grudging admiration for the engineering feats, and stick-to-it attitude, of the beaver.

“They are good workers,” he admitted. “They’re hard workers that’s for sure. They don’t give up.”

For reference, the province is about 3 times the size of Texas. They are so notorious for beaver slaying that they were in the canadian version of Jari Osborne’s documentary. And I first wrote about them on this website in 2011 when I was prompted to create the famous ‘exploding beaver’ graphic.

exploding beaver The province has 22,921 square miles of water which means they killed 1.6 beaver per mile. Considering that the numbers of beavers went UP every year you’d think they start to consider that maybe this technique wasn’t working. Instead of just doing it more, they could actually do something different?  With population rebound being what it is this might not be the smartest idea.

Apparently there’s no danger of any thinking going on anytime soon. Guess what the numbers will be next year?

Yesterday I spent some time working on the handout for children participating in the Keystone Project at the beaver festival. They will each get a laminated copy to use and hopefully return it to me and take part in the survey we need to use for our grant. I tried to make it fairly simple and straightforward. What do you think?

laminated card



Posted by heidi08 On May - 8 - 2015Comments Off

Great new article from the North Coast Land Conservancy in Oregon. Check it out for yourself:


Beavers, and beaver believers, transform Stanley Marsh

The waterway formerly known as Ditch Creek, trickling into Stanley Marsh on the east side of Seaside, is undergoing an incredible transformation—or perhaps incredible is the wrong word. In fact, it is exactly what you would expect to see after you take a few simple steps to invite beavers into the landscape.

It was suggested to the developer that he consider compensating for the loss of the wetlands at his place of business by enhancing the wetland at Stanley Marsh. Doug Ray of Carex Consulting is a former board member and big fan of NCLC; he was able to create a plan for his client that matched NCLC’s vision of stewardship for the property: rather than bringing in lots of heavy equipment to reshape the land according to a human’s idea of restoration, take simple steps to create the conditions that would encourage nature’s own wetland engineers—beavers—to do it.

For their part, the beavers are just taking care of themselves, creating and growing ponds that allow them to travel by water and avoid terrestrial predators. In that process, they’re also creating refuges for juvenile salmon, shorebirds such as snipes, songbirds such as bluebirds that use the hummocks in the marsh—all those species and many more have been spotted in the newly inundated marsh this spring. “This diversity of life—it can’t be there without what beavers do,” Doug says. “They’re a keystone species.”

It’s definitely not a ‘ditch creek’ anymore. It’s like Beavertopia.”

Fantastic work and an excellent new word from Doug Ray! This is smart beaver-assisted restoration which will quickly make the beaver rounds I’m sure. I must confess that my favorite part is when they put in the ‘starter dam’ to attract the beavers, but the beavers decided to build their own from scratch 3 feet upstream! Nobody knows creeks better than beavers.

The article has the misfortune to start out with this photo described as a beaver. Ahem.

This is probably a relative of the beavers currently working Stanley Marsh; Neal Maine caught this beaver in action at Thompson Creek a couple of years ago.

I don’t blame Neal. It looks exactly like this photo of a “beaver” from the famous High Country News Article.


There’s a reason they look alike. And it’s because neither of them are beavers. They’re both muskrats as we know too well here at beaver central. I wrote HCN ages ago to change this, but they decided in their infinite wisdom to ignore me. So let’s see if NCLT is more responsive.

Never mind. It’s a great article. And if more people follow its advice they will all end up seeing the real thing more often and being able to tell the difference for themselves!

If you hadn’t figured it out already, all involved (including staff at the land management agencies) are thrilled with the outcome; the project’s success has exceed all expectations. “It’s just this miracle that results from letting the beavers do their work,” as Doug puts it.

“I kept my faith in the beavers.”

As should we all, Doug.  Nicely put.

There’s some nice new research from Cherie Westbrook in Alberta, who might want to re-estabilsh her beaver cred after  her silly ‘beaver cause global warming’ research last year. This is much better, and is featured today in science news.

Flood planners should not forget beavers

MONTREAL — Busy beavers can curtail rising floodwaters, new research shows. The work suggests that beaver dams can provide natural flood protection and that officials should consider encouraging beaver construction projects as part of flood prevention plans, the researchers say.

As 19 centimeters of rain soaked Alberta, Canada, over three days in June 2013, Westbrook, of the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada, and colleagues monitored beaver dams along a stream. Water levels behind the dams rose 10 to 50 centimeters during the storm, postponing and reducing the peak surge of water flowing down the stream.

During the rainstorm, a 10-meter-wide breach burst open in one of the dams, causing a torrent of water to gush downstream. Surprisingly, despite the large rupture, the damaged dam still held back 15 centimeters of water as the storm progressed.

Excellent! It must be great to be a beaver researcher looking into benefits. Because you never run out of material. I’m sure as the climate changes they’ll be contrasting poles of interest all across the world. Beaver dams help flooding. Beaver dams help drought.

Don’t you sometimes get the feeling that no matter what science finds people will ignore it and kill them anyway? I mean we’re already ignoring their impact on salmon, trout, frogs,  drought, flooding. I suppose tomorrow they might report that beaver dams reduce Alzheimer’s and we will still keep right on trapping them.