Archive for the ‘Environmental’ Category

Wagons Ho-Ho-Ho!

Posted by heidi08 On February - 19 - 2017ADD COMMENTS

It’s the last time you’ll be hearing from me for a while  and lord knows that must be a kind of Sunday comfort.  Tomorrow is Bob’s grand debut so don’t forget to give him plenty of positive feedback.

conference Our new rule is only good news on Sunday, so I have a few fun things to share before I go. Paul and Louise are coming to dinner Tuesday night and maybe Leonard and Lois too, so we have lots to look forward to. But don’t feel left out,  you get treats as well. The first is a lovely discussion of ecological engineers from our old friend Mary Willson in Juneau.

On the trails: Ecological engineers

We use the word “engineer” in a confusing variety of ways and contexts, but here I mean to refer to organisms that create physical structures or changes in the environment — physical changes that affect other kinds of organisms. The concept is still very broad — one could say (and some researchers do so) that a forest of trees or large kelp, or a tallgrass prairie or an eelgrass bed, produces an environment in which temperature, humidity, air or water currents, precipitation patterns, or soils may be altered, thus affecting many other organisms by providing habitat or access to resources.

However, here I want to consider other “engineers” — those that deliberately, intentionally make or modify physical structures for their own purposes, with collateral consequences for other organisms.

The most well-known ecological engineers in the natural world are beavers. By building dams, they impound water, raising the water table, creating ponds, sometimes preventing floods, but also flooding low-lying areas. Although they may instinctively respond to the sound and feel of running water by trying to build a dam, they make deliberate choices about the size and shape of a dam and its component parts; they also maintain their structures continually. Beaver ponds provide good habitat for fish, especially juveniles, aquatic insects, various birds, and certain plants, although they obviously destroy portions of the adjacent area by flooding it. Some dams are hundreds of yards long and some are many feet high, depending on the terrain. A well-constructed, well-maintained beaver dam can last for many years, and its effects on the landscape may persist long after the beavers have moved on: the pond gradually fills with sediment and dead vegetation and eventually turns into a meadow.

We’re number ONE. Beavers make it happen! Mary goes on to describe other engineers but of course we’re spec-ist around her and we only care about the first one. If you would like to be smart and entertained, go read the others and learn about the wanna be-avers. I’m just going to bask in the recognition that beavers are the job-creators of an entire community.

The second wonderful thing is a photo I came across and having been saving for the right moment to share. It’s titled “Beaver playing the flute” for obvious reasons. All I know about this photo is on the caption below. But isn’t that fun?

Beaver, Playing the Flute? (by Alexander Koenders)

The third thing I want to share is the AMAZING donation we received from artist Sara Aycock. She’s a very clever woman in Boise Idaho with a book coming out next fall. I fell in love with her “Victorian Animals” series and she was crazy generous sendng 5 beautifully framed giclee prints that will completely knock your socks off. Each print comes with a framed character description as well. I’m partial of course to Mr. Beaverton. You need to go right now to her etsy store and support this kind of generosity and talent, because something tells me there will be a line waiting to bid on these delightful items at the auction.



Can a ‘planned community’ plan for beavers?

Posted by heidi08 On February - 17 - 20173 COMMENTS

Reston Virginia is one of the first and most well known ‘planned community’ in the world. It has libraries and swimming pools and gutters all in the precise location for the maximal living experience. And now it has made sure it will have designated beavers as well.

CaptureYesterday they launched a swanky new beaver page on their website and today this article was released. Because these things shouldn’t be left to chance. Not sure exactly where posies and butterflies fit in on a beaver web page, but I think we need to grade on a curve here.

Reston Association Working to Manage Beaver Population in Glade Area

Beavers have long been a part of the Glade Stream Valley, but Reston Association is working to make sure they don’t cause destruction for nearby residents in the form of damaged trees and flooding.

“It would be hard to find a better example in Reston of a healthy, diverse, native ecosystem than the two beaver wetlands (Glade Valley and Bright Pond),” reads information provided by Claudia Thompson-Deahl, senior environmental resource manager. “Reston’s beaver wetlands are one of the few places in Reston where nature is able to thrive despite all the surrounding suburban pressures.”

Beavers, however, bring a “dramatic change” to the surrounding environment, so Reston Association has developed a beaver management policy.

Oh those pesky beavers and their darned ‘changes’.  How’s a city of 58,404  to cope? Planning is the operative word here. It was planned by Robert E Simon, named for his initials and launched on his birthday in 1964. (I’m not kidding.) You can imagine how some unplanned beavers just throw a big monkey wrench in their best laid plans – making them gang aft agley, as it were.

According to Thompson-Deahl, additional fencing is being installed to keep Glade beavers out of residents’ yards and off wooded slopes, and many individual trees have been protected with wire mesh to safeguard the pathway.

In the long term, Reston Association staff, with input from residents and wildlife experts, has developed and implemented guidelines for beaver management in the area. The primary goal is to find methods to preserve and protect substantial portions of the stream valley from beaver activity. To do so, staff plan to divide the valley into two sections.

Section 1, designated as a “Beaver Management Area,” will consist of stream valley that runs from Twin Branches Road to the bridge behind Leatherwood Drive that leads to the Hunting Horn Lane Tot Lot.

Section 2, running from Hunting Horn Tot Lot to Soapstone Drive, will be managed as a wooded stream valley.

Section 1 contains residential property, utility easements and recreational facilities. With that in mind, according to Thompson-Deahl, fencing and pipes will be used to protect those areas. Three-foot wire-mesh fencing will protect and areas threatened by beaver activity, in the attempt to ensure continuous tree cover between Twin Branches Road and Soapstone Drive. In addition, over 100 Bald Cypress trees have been planted, with wire-mesh caging around each one.

In Section 2, beaver activity will be discouraged with fencing and stream gates. According to provided information, beavers in that area “will be removed” by a licensed trapper if the discouragement fails.

According to Thompson-Deahl, beavers provide positive attributes to the ecosystem including a reduction in stream erosion, reservoirs of water during period of drought and freeze, and the creation of wetlands that support a large amount of plant and other animal life.

Don’t get us wrong, we like nature. In the appropriate areas and as long as it goes according to plan. We are a civilized people, and wild things just need to behave less wildly. You know how certain home owners associations won’t let you plant purple zalia’s or put up a flag on any day besides the 4th of July. We just want our beavers in sector 1 to stay behind the fence.

Is that so much to ask?

Which makes me think of the unplanned joys of beavers and their many trials and benefits. Even in Martinez where we worked harder to live with the animals than anywhere it’s not like we ever “asked” for beavers. Or wanted this to happen. It’s not like my life had a big open space that I was hoping beavers would rush in and fill.

But that’s just the way it is, I think.



Cheap and Cheerful Beaver Webinar

Posted by heidi08 On February - 16 - 2017Comments Off on Cheap and Cheerful Beaver Webinar

I know, I know. Folks are jealous they don’t get to attend the State of the Beaver conference and listen to 24 hours of brilliant discussion about beaver ecology in the middle of a ringing and buzzing, smoke-filled casino in February. You might even be saying to yourself, why does Heidi get to drive 8 hours through the snowy steep grade traffic and eat hotel food just because she will be rambling on about beavers yet again?  I understand.  I realize how fortunate I am to be going at all, and your much-expected envy is the weighty burden of the lucky, I know. But there’s something everyone can do instead. And it means only a click of a button.

webinarThis webinar is scheduled for Mar 22, 2017 12:00 pm US/Eastern.

CaptureStream and riparian area degradation is widespread across the Intermountain West, yet restoration resources are limited. Relatively simple and low-cost alternatives are needed to scale up to the scope of the problem. A renewed appreciation of the role of the once widespread beaver has revealed insights about how this ecosystem engineer affects stream hydrology, geomorphology, riparian vegetation and habitat for other species with its dam building activities. Drawing upon lessons learned about how nature heals degraded systems, conservationists are increasingly seeking ways to recreate beneficial effects associated with beaver dam-building activities where appropriate to achieve a variety of stream and riparian recovery goals. Beaver Dam Analogues (BDAs) are one low cost, ‘cheap and cheerful’ technique used in beaver-assisted restoration to mimic natural beaver dams, promote beaver to work in particular areas, and accelerate recovery of incised channels. This webinar will provide a brief overview of beaver ecology and hydrogeomorphic feedbacks, beaver-assisted restoration, BDA design and application, and NRCS planning considerations and resources.

A “Join” button will appear on THIS WEBSITE for the conference the 15 minutes before it begins. There is no need to register and attendance is free. You can check if your tablet or PC has everything it needs to participate by clicking here. Course credit is offered for Forest Managers and more. So check if it applies to you. This course is offered in conjunction with the USDA.

If I have my way, someday soon the entire State of the beaver conference will be available online so folks from everywhere can benefit from the instruction. If Tufts can manage it, I’m sure Oregon State can do it eventually. Until then, I will do what I can to keep everyone posted.

beaver strategy meeting



Skip tells the truth about beavers

Posted by heidi08 On February - 13 - 2017Comments Off on Skip tells the truth about beavers

This is a fantastic article about Skip Lisle’s upcoming beaver ecology presentation in Maine. It says everything about beavers you ever wanted to read in print – pointing out their importance to wetlands and wildlife, and challenging folks to be smarter than a beaver and save money by doing it.  In addition to all this it permanently lays to rest the age-old question as to whether the  man that Martinez secretaries once clustered to the windows to watch install a pipe shirtless has, in fact, matured well.

The answer is, yes.

Beaver ecology talks set for Belfast, Liberty

Beaver expert, inventor and entrepreneur Skip Lisle of Beaver Deceivers International will speak in Belfast and Liberty on how to install deceivers and other devices designed to protect human infrastructure, wetlands and beavers.

The assumption is that we cannot outsmart beavers so we have to kill them,” Lisle said in a news release. “I’ve spent my life inventing and installing a number of devices that permanently outmaneuver beavers. I’ve helped communities across the country and in Poland save huge sums of money, and wetlands in the process.”

Lisle’s talk will demonstrate how towns can save thousands of dollars by permanently protecting roads and culverts from beavers. He will also cover the history of beavers in Maine, and the essential role they play in creating habitat and maintaining healthy aquatic systems.

“I don’t know how many people understand just how important beavers are ecologically,” he said. “Without beavers, we basically wouldn’t have wetlands. We can coexist with them; it just takes some creativity and commitment.

“Many people do not know that wetlands are one of the richest habitats, with a greater density of life than anywhere else on land,” Lisle said. “We have to approach the problems we have with beavers intelligently. It is our obligation as stewards. But, we also need to be smart with our money. The human and machine hours it takes to constantly repair roads, destroy dams and kill beavers is really a squandering of public funds. And it never solves the problem because beavers will always return to the site.”

Ahh, Skip, you do this so well. It seems like just the right things to say tumble effortlessly out of your lips at exactly the moment when people need to hear them. The reporter covering this story was obviously impressed because got the entire story down beautifully. Come to think of it, it’s kind of amazing that at both ends of the country there will be important beaver ecology discussions happening on February 22. Now if only we could just get some started in the middle.

This has to be my favorite part of the article:

Of the hundreds of conflict sites where he has worked, Lisle has yet to find one he could not solve. Consequently, he has never had to kill, or recommend killing, a single beaver. Skip serves as a selectman in his hometown of Grafton, Vt., where deceivers are a line item in the budget, and all roads are fully beaver-proof.

Did you read that? I didn’t know Skip was a selectman. When did that happen? I need to pay better attention. But in Grafton EVERY ROAD HAS CULVERT PROTECTION!!!  This is a beaver utopia that we can only fantasize about. In fact I’m fantasizing right now. If it could happen in Grafton, why not all over Vermont? Or New England? Or the country?

“Many people do not know that wetlands are one of the richest habitats, with a greater density of life than anywhere else on land,” Lisle said. “We have to approach the problems we have with beavers intelligently. It is our obligation as stewards. But, we also need to be smart with our money. The human and machine hours it takes to constantly repair roads, destroy dams and kill beavers is really a squandering of public funds. And it never solves the problem because beavers will always return to the site.”

Sometimes I just get that contented feeling of being a child asleep in the back seat after a long day at the beach  on the car ride home. The happy adults are in the front seat and totally have everything under control. There is nothing I need to do, and everything is going to be okay. Ahh
Since I don’t need to be mature right now, I’m going to surrender to the very inappropriate impulse to post this for obvious reasons:


Posted by heidi08 On February - 9 - 20172 COMMENTS

Dendrophobia is described as the fear of trees, from the Greek root dendro meaning tree + Phobia meaning irrational fear. Martinez has long suffered from this difficult-to-treat condition. And yesterday we were informed that the transported willow shoots laid down by our noble volunteers Saturday were being dug up. Because of concerns that they would cause flooding.

No, I’m not kidding.

Now disappointing a bunch of beaver supporters is no big deal, and the city is free to do it with impunity. As they have shown, over and over again. But these trees were planted with the authority of the SF waterboard with a grant through the California Urban Streams Partnership. And it is a slightly bigger deal to disrupt their work. And to exhume the trees they have planted. I’m not sure what will be the immediate outcome, but I’m sure they’ll be another shoe, and I’m sure it will drop. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, this is what they were not alarmed about on the very same day, filmed by Bonnie Logan up where we saw the beavers last by the Junior High.

If you’ll notice the stiff trunks in the middle of this flow are NOT willow. And are NOT bending with the water. In fact, some of them broke and washed downstream creating further hazards as they went. Willow has actually been shown to bend in high flow and increase the velocity of the water. But that only matters if you care about facts.

Which the Dendrophobes obviously don’t.

Castor Gratia Artis

Posted by heidi08 On February - 7 - 2017Comments Off on Castor Gratia Artis

CaptureOSU is getting ready for it’s grand “Showtime” reception for the Beaver Tales art exhibit this Thursday. They are already getting a nice flurry of attention as folks begin to see beavers in a newway. Organizer Charles Robinson sent their event poster you can see here.

Beavers offer inspiration in ‘Beaver Tales’ art exhibit

The exhibit, now on view at Giustina Gallery in LaSells Stewart Center, is the creation of volunteer curator Sara Vickerman and president of The Wetlands Conservancy, Ester Lev. The two wanted to promote more appreciation and understanding about the important role beavers play in ecosystems, Vickerman said.

“We thought sometimes environmental politics just make people tired and angry,” she said. “That’s not what we want here. We want people to have some fun and enjoy looking at this art.”

 Some artists took field tours provided by OSU to the North Coast and Portland to observe beavers in their habitat.

“People were just amazed. Here they (beavers) are living among us, working quietly and not so quietly,” Vickerman said, and laughed. “The artists went out and started looking for beavers on their own.”

About 125 pieces are displayed in the exhibit. Featured mediums include photography, clay, fused glass, stone mosaics, and wood pieces.

“There is everything from people who paint with watercolors, oils and acrylics to sculptures, even a woman who paints on cross-cut saws,” Vickerman said.


“My Oregon home” by Jen Richmond is a beaver painted on a cross-cut saw that is mounted on barn wood.

She was also impressed with photographs of beavers taken in Alaska by retired OSU professor Sharon Rosenkoetter and her husband, Larry.

The beauty of photographing beavers in Alaska is you don’t have the problem of them only coming out only when it’s dark, and you can’t get decent pictures. They have pictures of beavers taken in daylight that are just incredible,” she said.

The exhibit is part of SPARK, OSU’s year of Arts and Science.

“Charles Robinson (College of Liberal Arts faculty, coordinator of SPARK-OSU Year of Arts & Science) got us space at OSU for the exhibit. He thought it was the perfect illustration of the intersection of art and science, because people are doing research at OSU,” she said.

A percentage of the sales of art pieces will benefit The Wetlands Conservancy and other conservation groups, Vickerman said.

I have to admit, I’m having castor envy. I especially LOVE the idea of a beaver painted on a saw blade. Jen that is beautiful work!  Something like this is a huge undertaking. They were in the early stages back when I went to present in May. There are so many moving pieces to coordinate, and so many details to keep track of, all my hats are off to them. It’s so exciting that folks will gather to see this art and think about beavers differently – maybe for the first time!

(It was nice of the beavers to win the Civil war this year, that will probably help even more with attendance.)

I would feel like a total beaver slacker by comparison but last night Suzi Eszterhas approached me about the upcoming feature in Ranger Rick and asked me if she could give my contact info as a “Beaver expert” for information and resources in the article. You know the one coming up that will be mailed to children in every state and beyond. Would it be okay to give her editor my phone number? They’d like someone to be able to check for accuracy and verify details about our story and beavers in general?

I must have beamed around the living room for a full 20 minutes before I floated back to the keyboard and assented. “Oh alright” I typed, scowling contentedly,

You can give my name“.



Riverlords! I like it!

Posted by heidi08 On February - 6 - 2017Comments Off on Riverlords! I like it!

The Germans are tired of the UK having all the good beaver stories. They want some of their own to talk about why beavers matter. Hence this report from DW, which was also published under the headline; “Beavers on the Rampage“. Go figure.

Beavers: Lords of the rivers

When it comes to erecting remarkable structures, few animals are as talented architects as beavers. Almost hunted to extinction in Europe, the creatures are now bouncing back. Few animals create such impressive structures or alter their environment so dramatically as the beaver. Few, except for humankind.

“Beavers are like the architects of our waterways,” says of Iris Barthel of German conservation group Nabu. “They build dams, burrow, gnaw and fell trees and shrubs. In this way, beavers have shaped our riverscapes for millions of years.”

But despite – and sometimes because of – a shared propensity for reshaping the landscape, humans and beavers don’t always make good neighbors.

“The beavers aren’t aware of property ownership. They see the riverbank as a place they can dig their burrow,” says Barthel. “They see tasty food in fields or orchards. So it can happen that a tractor breaks a beaver lodge or a beaver fells a favorite apple tree.”

She adds that beavers have been accused of burrowing into dams and dikes, disrupting manmade flood defences, but says there are well-practiced defenses against this kind of damage.

If beavers are pilloried by politicians, it’s primarily to distract from their own failures in flood prevention,” says Barthel.

Lords of the Rivers! I like it. Shorter than Lord of the Rings and less stompy than Lords of the Dance! I love that last line. It’s true, that the first thing cities do after their culverts fail is blame beavers.  And power companies  when their service fails. And internet companies when their cables go out. (And fisherman when whatever). Often without any reason. Take Mountain House for instance, built out of landfill and roadways eroding. They ripped out the real creek to make room for a planned one. They are sure beavers excavated large cavernous tunnels that sucked their precious pavement into sink holes. Or at least that’s what they alleged until they got challenged.

Biologist Jessica Dieckmann told DW that part of her role as newly-appointed commissioner on beavers for the German city of Hamm was to help deal with conflicts arising between homeowners and their beaver neighbors.

She explained that because injuring or killing beavers or damaging their dams and burrows is forbidden in German, “a solution has to be found tactfully.”

“A solution could be that landowners sell a 20-meter-wide (66-foot-wide) riparian strip and make it available for nature protection,” says Dieckmann.

Her other tasks as beaver commissioner include finding out whereabouts beavers are in Hamm and how many there are, to know how best to deal with the creatures in the future.

Beavers usually live in burrows in the river bank accessed by an underwater tunnel. The dam ensures the water is deep enough to hide the entrance to their “lodge” beneath the surface.

But while human construction often runs at complete odds with the needs of other living species, beaver dams bring benefits to a whole host of other species.

“They create small ponds, deadwood, marsh areas or open up areas of soil,” says Barthel. These provide habitats for dragonflies, amphibians and reptiles, for fish and birds. “Where humans have to spend a lot of money on preserving biodiversity, the beaver helps out for free.”

“At the same time, it contributes to the cleanliness of water, re-natures rivers and supports natural flood prevention.”


The editors at DW think this is a beaver. But it’s NOT. This is a nutria (Or coypu Myocastor coypus). It’s BAD for the environment and the UNbeaver

Hurray! We love Jessica and Iris. There are smart beaver thinkers in Germany, and some of them are coming to the State if the Beaver Conference at the end of the month.   The language and knowledge has taken root on foreign soil. Or maybe started there and is taken root on American soil. I don’t care who gets the credit. I just care that we all get the knowledge.

Oh, and that papers stop running THIS photo and pretending to believe it’s a beaver. You can even see the TAIL in the back. And look at those nostrils and white whiskers! What’s the matter with you?