Archive for the ‘Environmental’ Category

Guardian Beavers

Posted by heidi08 On September - 17 - 2017ADD COMMENTS

Time for some UK praise of beaver gifts. I’ll be so wistful when they finally make the right decision. It’s wonderful to see articles like this in the Guardian.

Meet the latest recruit to the UK flood defence team: the beaver

Beavers could be put to work building dams to stop a village from flooding in the Forest of Dean, in what would be the first such scheme on government land.

The Forestry Commission has been an enthusiastic advocate for the release of a family of beavers into a large fenced area surrounding Greathough brook above the village of Lydbrook, on land owned by the commission.

Experts predict that the beavers will rapidly create dams, canals and ponds, slowing the stream’s flow and potentially holding back 6,000 cubic metres of water to prevent huge floods inundating Lydbrook, a village that suffered badly from flooding in 2012.

Villagers are mostly supportive, hoping the scheme will not only protect the village but boost local wildlife and tourism. “It’s a brilliant idea,” said Stuart Aken. “There were about 100 people in the village hall when they made the announcement and there wasn’t a single dissenting voice. People are in favour because of the potential to help against flooding and most are interested in the increase in wildlife that it will bring to the area.”

Everyone seems excited about the day, what’s the hold up?

But despite the beaver scheme not costing the taxpayer a penny – it would be funded by landfill taxes – it was abruptly postponed last month. A source close to the project said it had been blocked by a minister in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – and the Forestry Commission was “hopping mad”.

A spokesperson for Defra denied that the scheme had been blocked by a government minister and said that the Forestry Commission would announce the next steps in the coming weeks.

Derek Gow, a beaver expert who has worked on reintroductions in Scotland and England, said: “This is a tremendous opportunity. The science suggests these animals will hold back 6,000 cubic metres of water.

“This has the potential to prevent a once-in-30-years flood event. These animals will also open the forest canopy to light and create a biodiversity jewel in this forest.

 This “natural” flood defence works only in small streams in upland areas. In deeper rivers, beavers do not need to rapidly create dams. In lowland areas, beaver activity can also cause flooding.

But those in favour of their reintroduction to England and Wales say beavers can be returned to western river systems and will not spread to low-lying eastern areas, such as the Fens, where their activity could cause valuable agricultural land to flood.

Ahhh what a fine article! Where to begin? You have such great beaver advocates in the UK. But did someone really say that beavers would not spread and populate themselves into low-lying areas? I hate to break it to you but (ahem) beavers are very good at finding their way into new territory. It’s what they do. Their raison d’être , so to speak. I just don’t think it’s a great idea to tuck in the unsuspecting British population with cozy dreams of beavers who always stay where you put them. I agree about flooding. And I agree 100% with the lovely statement that “they’ll make a biodiversity jewel in the forest”.

But I wouldn’t say they won’t relocate. Never make promises beavers can’t keep.

I’m sure whoever said that it wasn’t Derek Gow, who is as fine an advocate as beavers could ever hope for. Looks like he’s giving a talk soon to spread the beaver gospel even farther.

Cheshire Wildlife Trust to stage beaver talk at Bickley Hall Farm

National beaver expert Derek Gow will be in Cheshire to give a talk on the how the animal’s re-introduction could impact the countryside. Cheshire Wildlife Trust is hosting the one-off talk at its headquarters at Bickley Hall Farm, between Malpas and Nantwich.

Several reintroductions of beavers are now either underway or being researched across the UK including in Scotland, Dorset and Wales.

A growing body of evidence suggests beavers have a key role to play in restoring nature in our countryside. They are a native species, which was hunted to extinction in the UK 400 years ago. They are a keystone wetland species, known for their dam building and tree-felling activity. This not only creates their home, but also provides the ideal habitat for many other plant and animal species and can play a role in flood prevention.

Derek Gow is at the forefront of beaver re-introduction and will be joining us to tell the story of the beaver comeback in the UK, sharing his experiences of the projects he has worked on along the way. His talk ‘The Return of the Beaver to the UK’ will be held at 7.30pm on Thursday September 28 at Bickley Hall Farm, Malpas, Cheshire, SY14 8EF.

Don’t you wish you could be there? I sure do! Derek is as fine a spokesmen as beavers could ask for and I know they have ever confidence in his work. Why just yesterday I found an awesome wetland illustration and was confused by one creature in the bottom right hand corner. He clarified helpfully that it was a water vole, and very common in England. Oh, and of course you know he came to Martinez after the beaver conference right? Because it turns out we are a kind of beaver Mecca too.

do wetlands matter

Follow-ups and Flourishes

Posted by heidi08 On September - 16 - 2017ADD COMMENTS

I thought I’d share a little about the odds and ends that followed my last few postings. One was about the water week events in Whatcom WA. You might remember that the paper said there’d be a showing of the film “Beavers in the Ecosystem” which I wanted to find out about. Turns out the paper got it wrong, it wasn’t actually a film but an event lead by the North Sound Baykeeper for Clean Water Services, Lee First. I got in touch with Lee through our friend Ben Dittbrenner of Beavers NorthWest. Seems Lee contacted Ben looking for properties with beavers on them that might allow a tour for his guided event and talk.

Lee impressed me right away with this response to my letter:

Hi Heidi, it’s not a film, it’s a site tour.  I’ll take photos during the tour, and I’ll probably write a little story about the tour.  I love beavers!

As far as I know there are two people in all the world who collect a city salary and love beavers. And now I know both of them! There surely aren’t any such people in Martinez.

The other follow up comes from my column on the story accusing the Welsh beavers of ruining the sequel film date. I got an email from Alicia Leow-Dyke of the Welsh Beaver Project thanking me for the graphic.

movie starThank you Heidi, that means a lot. I was so annoyed when I read the original article, beavers being blamed without any evidence! Someone has to stick up for them!  I love the graphic!! That’s brilliant! Would it be OK for me to use that graphic in our talks or on our website? I also love the beaver cushion that has been sent to you from the Ukraine. I am going to have to buy one for myself!

best baby everI told her of course she could use it, and showed her the photo of our kit where it’s from. Graphic Designer Libby Corliss didn’t work with us long, but the silhouettes she made that summer from Cheryl’s photos have been a lasting treasure I rely on again and again.

Onto the treats of the day, this time Parks and Recreation Department of Calgary, which is about 400 miles north of Montana across the Canadian border. Seems they just updated their beaver webpage and WOW they did an amazing job. Even when I read it the third time this morning, I was still surprised and impressed.

BeaversCapture

Beavers have found an inviting home in Calgary, with its two rivers, abundant green space, and lack of predators. In recent years, their population has grown, with lodges in various locations along the Bow and Elbow rivers, in storm water ponds and wetlands.

Beavers are good for our environment

Beavers play an important ecological role in Calgary’s waterways. Their dams can create ponds that provide habitat for other wildlife and help surrounding vegetation to flourish. The ponds and wetlands are very good at storing water, and can help reduce the effects of smaller floods and hold water during droughts.

Water flowing through dammed areas is naturally purified, and after a dam has broken, fertilizer created from the decomposing material in the dam will spread downstream.

I promise I haven’t embellished this or edited to make it look better. This is the ACTUAL website for Calgary and it starts by describing how lucky we are to have them. Then it gets around to talking about problems, but in a pretty reasonable way.

Beavers also present some challenges

Because conditions are so good, Calgary’s beaver population has grown in recent years. This can cause problems for our forested areas, infrastructure and property, and the beavers themselves.

A single adult beaver can cut down about 200 trees in a year. With each lodge housing four to six beavers, wooded areas can be devastated in a short period of time. This is harmful to other wildlife that rely on the trees for habitat. Beaver dams can also cause flooding that affects property, and in some cases, can damage storm drains and weirs that can be very expensive to repair.

Okay, that’s most reasonable. People can legitimately have concerns about these animals. There’s only a single sentence I take issue with.

“Without natural predators, beaver populations can grow to be unsustainable.”

Ahh Calgary, you were doing so well up until them. Did you never read that beavers were territorial? Did you never think that when the streams were full of beavers the new ones would have to look elsewhere for a place to call their own? I would be disappointed in them,  but they quickly redeemed themselves.

The City’s approach to beaver management

The City’s practice is to try and strike a balance between health of the surrounding areas and the wellbeing of the beavers.

When required, The City uses different measures to protect trees and property to make our river parks unappealing to beavers. Depending on the situation, we may use a combination of the following:

  • Placing metal wiring around tree trunks.
  • Planting varieties of trees along the shore that are less palatable.
  • Placing under-dam drains to control water levels.

surprised-child-skippy-jon

We consider all other options before turning to trapping. However, in some cases it is required. When we do remove beavers, we use traps that are designed to kill instantly. The traps are placed under water for the protection of dogs, park users and other wildlife, and are checked daily.

There’s a final paragraph on why they can’t relocate beavers that are causing issues instead of trapping them, but honestly this is ALL I WISH from any city beaver management policy. Protect trees. Plant Willow. Install flow devices.

Consider it my version of “Eat. Pray. Love.”

If every city tried to do these things before trapping I would be over the moon with joy. Honestly, this is the best and most sensibly proactive policy I have ever read.

They even have a video teaching how to wrap trees. Be still my heart.

I expect a mass exodus of beaver supporters moving to Calgary right away. Honestly, my bags are nearly packed.


One more present for Heidi in the Odds and Ends category. This lovely website I came across in my travels is called beaverlikemammals.com, with the actual tagline “A friendly place to post sightings of beaver-like mammals” which she dubs BLM’s.

Really.

CaptureBLM
abbreviation
Beaver Like Mammal.

Everyone wants to make a contribution to society, to leave their own little mark on the world. This website is my mark. It provides a public space where people can post sightings of beaver-like mammals (BLMs). Did you spot a BLM at the corner of 10th Street and West Main? Does a BLM emerge from the bushes by your back porch every evening around 6pm? Did you catch a glimpse of a BLM out of your car window on the way home on Thursday night? Submit your sighting to beaverlikemammals.com!

There is a page for submitting a sighting and your observation will be listed by your state. Most of the entries she has look like woodchucks with the occasional squirrel. I don’t see any actual beavers since back in 2007. But she definitely gave me a gift.

From now on, the next photo of a nutria I see on a news article about beavers I’m calling it a BLM.

Friendly protection

Posted by heidi08 On September - 15 - 2017Comments Off on Friendly protection

camilaHere’s two very nice ways to get a jump start on the weekend. The first is news that our good friend Camilla Fox of Project Coyote is now working with the Center for Biological Diversity to sue Fish and Game. Here she is with a volunteer working at the beaver festival in 2012. We always like days that start out like this.

State wildlife agencies sued over commercial trapping program

Two national nonprofit advocacy groups sued the California Fish and Game Commission and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife this week, claiming the two agencies have improperly managed and illegally subsidized the state’s commercial trapping program.

The Center for Biological Diversity and Project Coyote claim thousands of coyotes, foxes, badgers and other fur-bearing animals are trapped in California every year so their pelts can be sold overseas.

The advocate groups claim in their lawsuit that the California Fish and Game Commission and state Department of Fish and Wildlife have illegally diverted up to $500,000 since 2013 to subsidize commercial fur trapping in the Golden State.

The California Fish and Game Commission and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife are two separate entities. Established in 1870, the California Fish and Game Commission is billed as the first and oldest wildlife conservation agency in the United States, predating even the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries.

I didn’t even know that there was a State Fish and Game Commission. They are the folks at the county level that gave us our grant last year. In fact they’re hosting a bbq this weekend that Cheryl is attending to show off what we did with their money. I can’t tell from the article how they’re saying the agencies subsidized trapping but I’m very interested in this idea. Wait, there’s a clearer article in the LA Times yesterday. They say the taxpayers end up subsidizing because the fees for trapping licences are so low. They’re saying if they charged trappers what it actually cost the system, the fur trade would die in California. Hmmm that’s interesting.

Lawsuit aims to end commercial fur trapping in California

“We hope the filing of this lawsuit will be remembered as the moment California said goodbye to the handful of people who still kill mammals so that their pelts can be auctioned off in foreign markets and then made into slippers and fur-trimmed coats,” she said.

It may be unpopular, but I’m not going to invest a lot of energy in fur trapping. That is not the cause of the overwhelming number of beaver deaths. Depredation is the BIG killer in California. I would spend money suing the the state over that.

(I’m having a fantasy right now about what it would be like to have enough money to sue CDFG in a drought year after counting all the beaver depredation permits and calculating how much water they would have saved if they had been allowed to live!)

Of course my favorite lawsuit against CDFG involved beavers, was won at the appellate level and happened 18 years ago with our friend Mitch Wagoner in Riverside county. Ahh Memories!

Meet the Baby Beavers, Squirrels and Ducklings Saved During Harvey

The second treat to start the weekend is this from the Wildlife Center of Texas, who has its share of rescues after hurricane Harvey. The article is definite eye candy and you should check it out, but I thought this was particularly wonderful.

The good volunteers at WCT are working hard at the moment so go here to donate.

beaver-duo

Kits dislocated by Hurricane Harvey: Wildlife Center of Texas