Archive for the ‘Environmental’ Category

Reminiscing beavers

Posted by heidi08 On July - 23 - 20152 COMMENTS

I had fun with the new toy yesterday. Apparently 62 percent of voters never miss a beaver festival! There is NO beaver news in the world today, and I am too cluttered with details to have anything interesting to say. A couple readers wrote brilliant letters about the Alyth stupidity, and that of course makes me very happy.

Let’s try this again shall we?

Here’s a history lesson  with music. I made and uploaded this video May 2007, more than eight years ago. Before the flow device, before Worth A Dam, before the festival. Before Jon even started watching. You can tell it is such a long time ago I made it even BEFORE I was friends with Cheryl. (Because I use no beautiful photographs of hers.)

One part I especially like is the very blurry photo of an otter actually sitting on top of the old beaver lodge. I snapped that soooooo long ago. It was so early and I was just barely awake. I wasn’t even sure what it was! I remember a youngish beaver came and tail slap alarmed him away. I counted and he slapped 19 times. Of which I managed to film the very last one.

Honestly, I was such a newbie I included a stolen nutria photo by mistake, can you spot it? I was just starting to get intrigued by this new species in my midst. And having fun using iMovie.  If I had taken the poll back then I would have answered number two.

We were all new to this once.

From the very wet to the very dry.

Posted by heidi08 On July - 18 - 2015Comments Off

Incredible scenes as homes and businesses are flooded in Alyth

Torrential downpours caused widespread devastation in Alyth yesterday morning. Rescue crews used inflatable boats to free people trapped in their homes and businesses in the flood-hit town centre.

Alyth Burn, which runs through the community, overflowed after debris and fallen trees blocked a series of bridges. Locals told The Courier a large section of the town centre was under water within minutes.

Why is this beaver news? Because this video was shot about 4 miles from the home of Paul and Louise Ramsay, and they are frantically trying to reassure folks that beavers can make this better, or at least not make it worse. It is true that beaver dams can function as ‘speed bumps’  in the stream to slow the water down. But frankly when I look at that level of flooding I sadly think beaver dams won’t matter at all one way or the other. This is what global warming looks like. California gets so little rain that we can’t even imagine what this would be like, and Scotland gets more than it can handle.

Stay safe Paul and Louise, and I hope your beavers stay safe too. From Scotland to Texas, I thought this very different story might help dry us out.

Clean restrooms and a giant beaver

Let us pause to ponder the supersize mentality that has led to the proliferation of monster convenience stores, where gas pumps stretch far as the eye can see. The merchandise includes deer feeders, barbecue smokers, an extensive clothing line, an overwhelming array of road snacks, 80 soda dispensers — and America’s cleanest bathrooms.

That would be Buc-ees, a 60,000-square-foot emporium that just opened its 23rd Texas store in Terrell. We stopped there last Sunday on the way back from Frisco — along with what appeared to be several thousand other curious customers — to get gas and use those famed restroom facilities.

 It relies on the rest of us eager to sample the utterly over-the-top ambiance of Buc-ees, where a bronze statue of a beaver stands guard outside the entrance.

It turns out Texas is closer than you might suspect, because long-time supporter Janet Thew made a generous donation of Buc’ee merchandise to the silent auction. Which I’m thinking you just might need to bid on.

This is apparently the luckiest beaver in Texas.

“One stick at a time…”

Posted by heidi08 On July - 17 - 2015Comments Off

I guess USDA finally got the memo! Even though they chose to bury this story in their blog, I’m pretty excited. Just look:

Working with Beavers to Restore Watersheds

The Methow Beaver Project is a bit uncommon as far as forest health

restoration projects go, because it relies on one of nature’s greatest engineers – the beaver.

Beavers build dams on river


s and streams, and build homes (“lodges”) in the resulting bodies of still, deep water to protect against predators. Beavers play an important ecological role, because the reservoirs of water that beaver dams create also increase riparian habitat, reduce stream temperatures, restore stream complexity, capture sediment, and store millions of gallons of water underground in wetland ‘sponges’ that surround beaver colonies. This benefits the many fish, birds, amphibians, plants and people that make up the entire ecosystem.

Across the country today, there are fewer beavers than there used to be because their fur was very desirable to early American settlers and many landowners considered them to be a pest that damaged the landscape. As beavers were eradicated, the once complex wetlands that they helped to create disappeared as well.

 Recently, low snowpack in the Cascade Mountains has resulted in less meltwater flowing through streams throughout the spring, summer and fall on the Methow Valley Ranger District of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in north central Washington State. The low water levels have negatively affected habitat for salmon, trout, frogs, eagles and many other species. Over the next 20 to 30 years, dramatically less snowpack is predicted.

 That’s why U.S. Forest Service biologists like Kent Woodruff are working to reintroduce beavers to forest streams where they used to be common. Beavers can help make such ecosystems more resilient to future changes in climate by restoring ecological function. Not only do beaver dams increase water storage on the landscape, they improve water quality by reducing stream temperatures, increasing nutrient availability in streams, and increasing stream function by reconnecting floodplains.

Recently, the Western Division of the American Fisheries Society recognized the Methow Beaver Project, awarding it the Riparian Challenge Award for 2015. This award recognizes and encourages excellence in riparian and watershed habitat management, and celebrates the accomplishments of the project’s many partners, including its beaver engineers!

 “We’re solving important problems one stick at a time,” Woodruff said.

And on the weighty day when USDA pinched their nostrils closed and  forced themselves to mention the positive truth about beavers, Kent was standing there in uniform to ease the pain. A USFS biologist himself, Kent’s project carries the respectability that not even USDA can ignore forever. With so many partners and supporters the Methow project is guaranteed to make a difference, and Kent has worked hard to see that it will thrive long after he retires.  It is remarkable, that even though Methow has been doing this work a long, long, LONG time, USDA is just starting to get the message.

Better late than never, I always say.

Struggling amphibians get a beaver boost

New research by the U.S. Geological Survey suggests that the effect beavers have on the environment may stem the decline of amphibians in places such as Grand Teton National Park.

 The decade-long study found startling declines of amphibians in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park and more gradual declines in Grand Teton and Yellowstone parks. It determined that further north in Glacier National Park the metamorphosing critters are faring better. Headed by Blake Hossack of the USGS, the research also determined that beavers create wet habitats that act as a hedge against declines in amphibians, which depend on water in their early life stages.

“Although beaver were uncommon, their creation or modification of wetlands was associated with higher colonization rates for four of five amphibian species, producing a 34 percent increase in occupancy in beaver-influenced wetlands compared to wetlands without beaver influence,” the study said. It was published recently in the journal Biological Conservation.

 “Also, colonization rates and occupancy of boreal toads and Columbia spotted frogs were greater than two times higher in beaver-influenced wetlands,” the study said. “These strong relationships suggest management for beaver that fosters amphibian recovery could counter declines in some areas.”

 The USGS, New Mexico State University, Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative and the National Park Service all collaborated on the study.

The influence of beavers is on display along Moose-Wilson Road in Grand Teton park, upstream of where the beaver pond borders the road, Patla said. During the study, she said, the aquatic rodents colonized a new area to the north.

 “The beavers started moving upstream from there and making dams and they flooded a huge area,” Patla said.

Previously the habitat in the area consisted of “ancient” beaver ponds that had dried out and wasn’t great amphibian habitat.

 After the beavers recolonized, “all four species were present and toads suddenly appeared for the first time,” Patla said. “Adults laid their eggs and rapidly colonized that area.

Whoa! You’re kidding me! You mean the actions of the “water-savers” actually benefited multiple species of “water-users”? That must come as a real surprise, since I’m sure you were taught in school that beavers were icky. And in California we’ve killed them for destroying frog habitat by “ruining vernal ponds.” And if you doubt it you should reread my column about it from 2012, back when I used to write fairly clever things.

Honestly I thought the ship of “Beavers help frogs” had sailed and was already in the general lexicon. But I forgot the need to repeat research to prove that results apply regionally. No word yet on when they’ll be releasing the papers on “Gravity still applies in Wyoming” or “Researchers confirm water tends to flow down hill in Jackson Hole, too.”


I shouldn’t complain. USDA, USFS, USGS all in one day proclaiming beaver benefits. That’s got to be some kind of acronym milestone. I sure wish their was a department of Beaver Benefits. Maybe USBB?

Here’s some eye candy to start the weekend right. First kit filmed in the Scottish Beaver Trials this year.

Video: rare footage of Scots beaver released



Remember beavers in Urban Planning?

Posted by heidi08 On July - 16 - 2015Comments Off

What a great day yesterday! It started out by picking up a fantastic gift bag donation from Trader Joe’s (Thanks TJ), organizing the amazing donations from Folkmanis puppets (Thanks Elaine), getting two copies of the unbelievably exciting book DAM BUILDERS from the publisher(Thanks Natasha), sending the finished festival brochure to the printers, (thanks Amelia!) and finishing a spread sheet for a stunning 134 auction items! Here’s a little taste.

Then retired librarian friend BK from Georgia sent this my way, and it made everything even brighter. This is such a beautiful review from I’m going to print it all. And if they want to come get me I’ll take the consequences.Capture

Wildlife in built-up areas an undervalued part of our urban ecosystems

Urban wildlife such as deer, foxes and badgers should be cherished for the ecological benefits they bring to towns and cities, rather than feared as potentially harmful pests, scientists argue in a new report.

The review, published in the scientific journal Wildlife Research, states that in order for humans and animals to live successfully side-by-side in built-up areas, a cultural shift is required for the public to fully appreciate the integral role that wildlife performs in urban ecosystems.

 Much of the public dialogue about larger urban wildlife currently focuses on the risk of disease, pollution and threat to property or pets, rather than the positive contribution these animals can make.

Lead author Dr Carl Soulsbury, a conservation biologist based in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Lincoln, UK, said: “While promoting education about urban wildlife and its risks is important, the benefit wildlife brings to urban areas is often poorly communicated. It includes benefits such as regulating and supporting the ecosystem, through to improving human health and wellbeing.

“We need to identify ways to maximize the benefits, in particular increasing the accessibility of natural green spaces and promoting interactions with wildlife as a form of nature-based therapy. It is only through such an integrative approach that we can advance our understanding of how to live successfully alongside wildlife in an increasingly urbanised world.”

How beautiful is THAT for a beginning?  Wildlife in our cities is a treasure NOT a nuisance, and the problem is that people complain too loudly about the problems and don’t talk about the benefits. I have already written to Dr Soulsbury, because we obviously need to be friends.

 The researchers detail how urban wildlife can provide a range of benefits to human health and quality of life which are often undervalued or overlooked. For instance, there is a growing body of evidence that indicates the presence and viewing of urban wildlife is beneficial for human mental health and psychological wellbeing.

Urban animals also regulate and support the ecosystems of towns and cities. Many creatures serve as important predators of pest species – for example, songbirds help to control insect populations and predatory birds help rodent control.

 But as urban human populations continue to grow, so too does the chance of ‘human-wildlife’ conflict, the researchers warn.

These conflicts occur when the activities of wildlife, whether through aggression, nuisance behaviour such as bin emptying or the spread of parasites or infectious diseases, have a negative effect on humans. Most such problems are minor, but can be distressing to individuals and tend to shape attitudes of the public and authorities.

 Dr Soulsbury added: “The main problem is that many of the benefits of living alongside urban wildlife are difficult to quantify. However, we do know that the presence of wildlife gives people an opportunity to connect directly with nature at a local level. This is becoming particularly important in our increasingly urban society where humans are becoming more remote from the natural environment.

 ”More work is needed to better understand the role of urban wildlife and urban biodiversity in general, in the promotion of mental health and its greater role as a recreational and cultural ecosystem service. To do so wildlife biologists will need to work with other research disciplines including economics, public health, sociology, ethics, psychology and planning.”

 I agree! Hmm can we think of any psychologists we might know interested in co-authoring a research paper on this topic? Maybe one with a yearly access to a sample size of 2000?

I’m in love with this article and think I need the paper to which it refers. None of my usual sources can access it yet, so it might not be available. Here’s the link for the abstract if you’re feeling scientific. All I can say is that maybe Dr. Soulsbury needs to come to Martinez for some field research. I’m thinking August would be the perfect time.

Human–wildlife interactions in urban areas: a review of conflicts, benefits and opportunities CaptureCase in point…


Help Wanted: Only Beavers Need Apply

Posted by heidi08 On July - 14 - 2015Comments Off

Yellowstone is in trouble unless we can bring back the beavers

 16700074426_a7acaed7cf_bPeople say that wolf reintroduction saved Yellowstone.

 When biologists reintroduced wolves to the park in 1995, the initial effect was promising. Although elk populations did not decline as much as expected, the plants they ate started to regrow. Ecologists theorized that elk altered their behavior when wolves were around and consequently spent less time grazing.

 The wolves quickly became the poster child for trophic cascades, how bringing back top predators can restore out-of-whack ecosystems. In recent years, however, ecologists have realized that bringing back wolves hasn’t been enough to restore plant communities in Yellowstone.

 ”Predators can be important,” Oswald Schmitz, an ecologist at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, told Nature, “but they aren’t a panacea.”

Ohhh sure, wolves are all sexy and wild with their howling in the night and dramatic silhouettes. People like George Monblott make  viral videos proclaiming their splendor. But guess what has a lumpy silhouette and doesn’t get big fancy supporters? I’ll give you a hint. It starts with a ‘B’.

10984979774_c4a7b0bdf0_bThus ecologists have started looking closer at the role beavers play in the ecosystem.

 Beavers, too, suffered from the initial decline of wolves and rise of elk, as elk out-competed beavers for food — particularly willow and aspen trees — leading to the near-elimination of beavers and their dams from the park.

 As beaver dams disappeared, so did the wetlands and streams they supported — and these are the areas that suffer most today.

 ”It’s problematic because the willows and beavers have a mutualistic relationship: Beavers eat and cut them down to build their dams, and the dams raise the water tables and bring water up so it’s more available for plants,”

 ”Without beaver dams creating willow-friendly environments,” Emma Marris, author of the book “Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World,” told Popular Science, “the willows can’t recover.”

 Not only will the willows not recover, but the marshy habitats around them won’t recover either. That includes not only the trees and plants but also the birds, amphibians, and any other creature that needs wetland to survive.

Now it occurs to you that beavers might matter? After we’ve been talking about it for a decade?  Well, isn’t that mighty white of you, as they say.  I’m sure Dr.’s Hood, Muller-Swarze, Westbrook, Haley and Fouty will be very pleased.  More importantly, I’m hoping you take from this that one single answer won’t create a solution. It’s a complicated interweaving of systems, and when you remove one they all suffer. It’s all connected, you know.

(But beavers are STILL more connected than most.)

the missing piece

For Immediate Release

Posted by heidi08 On July - 13 - 2015Comments Off

CoverBeaver Festival VIII features free wildlife pins by Oakland artist

Keytone species project 2015Worth A Dam is pleased to announce that the first 150 children attending the Beaver Festival on August 1st, 2015 will be able to collect 19 wildlife pins designed by Oakland artist Mark Poulin and purchased with a grant from the CCC Wildlife Commission. The activity will highlight the new wildlife seen in Alhambra Creek since the beavers arrived, and emphasize their role as a Keystone Species. The artist was pleased with the project, saying

“I was so excited to find out that we had beavers in the Bay Area, and a group protecting them, celebrating them,and doing education outreach about them.”

The beloved annual festival will feature live music, beaver tours, children’s activities, and more than 40 ecological booths. Initially a response to the controversy regarding the beavers, the festival has become one of the largest and best attended wildlife events in the state.

This year in particular there’s a lot for beaver-fans to celebrate, as acclaimed wildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas has been photographing the Martinez beavers for the past two months in preparation for a feature in NWF’s Ranger Rick. This award-winning children’s magazine promises to be perfect place to show case the famous Martinez Beavers.

bioCollageAlthough she has worked with Cheetahs in the Savanna, and Penguins in the Antarctic, Ms. Eszterhas had never seen anything quite like Martinez where she was forced to contend with trains, traffic, homeless, and, she says “one unexpected proposal of marriage.” Despite the urban hazards she was thrilled with her assignment and adds,

“Working with the Martinez beavers has given me a special, up-close view of a mysterious animal that is often shy and elusive. It has been privilege to watch the family live out their fascinating lives right in downtown Martinez! I applaud Worth A Dam and the city of Martinez for their work in being a model for coexistence.”

You can hear all about the visits, bid on her books and more at the silent auction, learn about wildlife or just find about more about the beavers by joining this year’s Annual Festival. Come learn how one city improved its creek by solving a problem humanely. It promises to be a ‘dam’ good time!


Beaver Festival VIII – Sponsored by Worth A Dam August 1st, 2015. 11-4
“Beaver Park” in down town Martinez.
Tours, wildlife, exhibits, and live music. Contact 925 283-4499

I released this yesterday to the media winds. So far only patch has picked it up. Fingers crossed it makes its way around the bay. The festival’s a lot of work whether people attend or not, so it’s more worth it when we’re PACKED.

Some good beaver news for a change

Posted by heidi08 On July - 11 - 2015Comments Off

Finally. A night and morning with no dead beavers. Mom, Dad, 2 year olds seen last night. And the dam’s been worked on. Thank heavens for a day of relative peace. In the meantime, there has been a lot of beaver news in the world that we’ve been neglecting in our grief. Let’s try and get caught up at least with the good stories!

Beaver problem solved with simple, innovative device

A family of beavers  dammed up part of the retention basin in the Mount Healthy’s Heritage Park, property owned by Ohio Department of Transportion, causing the pond not to drain properly. So residents and ODOT teamed up to find a beaver expert with an innovative way to solve the problem.

Mount Healthy resident Karen Arnett says the beavers built the dam, but that dam also changed the ecosystem around the pond. Walkers in the park began seeing egrets and other new wildlife.

 When the beavers were removed, some residents wanted to find a way to allow them to coexist.

 So Arnett poked around and found Mike Callahan, a Massachusetts man who builds flow devices to manage beaver problems through his business, Beaver Solutions.


Callahan said while beavers are considered to be pests by some, scientists actually have proven that beavers are a “Keystone” species in North America. This means that beavers play a crucial role in biodiversity. Innumerable species rely either partly or entirely on beaver ponds, many of them threatened or endangered. “Therefore, whenever we can coexist with beavers, we are providing the habitat necessary for supporting many other species, and protecting the web of life upon which we depend,” he said.

 ODOT brought Callahan in to show staff how flow devices could help them manage beaver problems. He was impressed by the invitation and eager to show them how it could be done.

 “Is anyone aware of another state highway department that has committed to building and installing flow devices themselves?” Callahan asked. “Ohio wants to start doing flow devices themselves which I think is pretty cool.”

Callahan said the training session included a PowerPoint presentation tailored to ODOT needs, and a hands-on flow device installation where many ODOT staff participated.

Hurray for Mike and Karen! And hurray for ODOT. Ohio is the FIRST state in the country to be trained in flow devices. I never thought I’d see the day, but what do I know? Karen obviously pushed and tugged and wheedled in a powerful way that got the right results. That’s never easy to do. And Mike made sure the price was right for them to have a personal lesson. Thank you BOTH.

This is another story that brightened my eye during the dark days. I saved it for you.

An unlikely pairing

Back in the fall of 2014, when beavers first showed up in a ravine next to homes in the Bolton area, the question on everyone’s mind was how to deal with the creatures: Should they be driven away to avoid potential property damage, or accepted as a new and potentially beneficial addition to the neighborhood?

 The answer was obvious to residents in the immediate vicinity of the beavers, and they eventually formed the group B.E.A.V., which stands for “Beaver Environmental Advocacy Volunteers.” In the months since the group was formed, B.E.A.V. members have helped educate residents on what it means to have beavers in a neighborhood — beyond the obvious tree-chomping problems — and hosted informational sessions with experts like Susan Barnes from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

 This summer, their focus turned from education to concrete action. As it became clear that invasive plant species were creating problems for the beavers, the group decided that human intervention wouldn’t do the trick.

 They needed goats.

 “We assessed the health of the habitat in the ravine,” B.E.A.V. founder Peggy Watters said. “There’s a lot of invasive species down there, so our chance of being able to plant things for the beaver to keep him in the ravine was going to be difficult.

 “Goats were a good alternative.”

And so it was that 34 goats arrived at the ravine between Holly and Sinclair Street June 29 for a week-long feast. The goats were rented from Yoder Goats, which in the past has provided similar services for West Linn’s Parks and Recreation Department.

 “(The goats) take it all down, eat it and fertilize it while they eat it,” Watters said. “What efficient little munchers they are.”

 Beyond providing a crucial service to the beaver habitat, the goats also proved to be a popular attraction around the neighborhood. B.E.A.V. hosted a special ceremony June 29 to mark the goats’ arrival, and volunteers helped create a path for the goats to follow from their trailer down into the ravine.  Over the course of the next week, adults and children alike stopped by to visit with the goats and watch them “work.”

 “It’s been fun to open all of our backyards and invite people back to hang out with the goats,” Watters said. “That whole community connection experience, it’s one of those experiences I think we’ve lost over the years. (The project) has been nice in many more ways than just clearing the ravine.”

 Now that the goats have done their work, Watters said it will be up to B.E.A.V. members to take the next step.

 “Our work isn’t done yet,” Watters said. “At our next meeting on July 13, we’ll be assessing how the goats did, and what do we do now?

 Later this month, on July 18, B.E.A.V. is set to host a potluck gathering for neighbors who are interested in learning more about the beavers and their habitat. 

How much do you love this story? And B.E.A.V.? I feel a great burst of affection for them and their ability to use wildlife to engage the community.  And now they are holding a potluck? Apparently they can win the hearts of the politicians, the neighbors and the press! I can tell you right now why they were successful. Just let me know when they’re planning a beaver festival?

ThanyouSpeaking of the beaver festival, I just found out that we received a grant from the city for this summer’s event. Which means we have 3 civic financial sponsors this year. Take a moment to consider that, will you? Only 8 years after forcing them to do the right thing, Worth A Dam gets supported! This means our fullest ever support page.

Pass me a handkerchief, will you. This is so sudden.