Archive for the ‘Environmental’ Category


Posted by heidi08 On December - 17 - 2014Comments Off

wb'I’m off this morning to the state building to talk to the SF waterboard about beavers. Do I feel ready? I reworked the address to include our historic prevalence papers like Riley asked. I made new slides to talk about the research on beavers and water. I practiced everything until I was able to get it down to 43 minutes. (I was told 45 with 15 minutes for questions, so I assume 43  with pauses for laughter or disbelief should be about right.) Jon will be handling the driving and carrying things up for me. So that’s it. I can’t get any more ready than I am now. And having driven home in a TORRENT yesterday with all the visibility of the inside of a cow, allow me to use the metaphor that floats to mind:

It’s sink or swim now.

There were 40 gleeful articles about beavers and greenhouse gases in the last 24 hours but we knew it was coming. Those researchers sure have a lot to answer for. Since you might need to argue with someone about it in the next day or so, I’ll give you Eli Asarian’s (Riverbend Sciences) sage thoughts on the matter.

Yes, its generally true that wetlands generate methane due to low oxygen conditions in their sediments. They also sequester carbon (build peat soils), which should partially offset the climate effect of the methane. Methane (CH4) lasts only a few years in the atmosphere, whereas CO2 lasts decades. So methane emissions are important in the short-term because they will affect how fast we reach runaway climate “tipping points” (for example, melting artic permafrost), but in the long-term, the more long-lived molecules such as CO2 and nitrous oxides will have a much greater effect on climate decades and centuries forward. It is also important to keep the historical condition in perspective: many centuries ago, we had a lot more wetland area and a lot less fossil fuel burning than we have today, so it seems a somewhat unfair to say we shouldn’t restore wetlands because of their climate effect.

- Eli

 So there. I’m off to the salt mines. Wish beavers luck.

You otter see this…

Posted by heidi08 On December - 16 - 2014Comments Off

Our beaver-watching friends in Napa are keeping a close eye on the pond to see what the rain does to the beavers. I got this yesterday from Rusty.

I was checking on the Beaver Pond today around 2 p.m. and was excited to see what at first I thought were two beavers. Turned out to be two river otters which wasn’t so bad,

otter Rusty

River otter fishing Napa beaver pond.: Photo Rusty Cohn 12-14

I told him our mantra and suggested he send it to the paper.

Beaver ponds increase invertebrates
More Bugs mean more fish
More Fish mean more otters and mink

I also told him to make an otter spotter report since he caught this video:

This morning our retired librarian friend from Georgia sent me new research for the “Blame the Beaver Campaign”. This one about Methan Emmissions.

Beaver-mediated methane emission: The effects of population growth in Eurasia and the Americas


Globally, greenhouse gas budgets are dominated by natural sources, and aquatic ecosystems are a prominent source of methane (CH4) to the atmosphere. Beaver (Castor canadensis and Castor fiber) populations have experienced human-driven change, and CH4 emissions associated with their habitat remain uncertain. This study reports the effect of near extinction and recovery of beavers globally on aquatic CH4 emissions and habitat. Resurgence of native beaver populations and their introduction in other regions accounts for emission of 0.18–0.80 Tg CH4 year−1 (year 2000). This flux is approximately 200 times larger than emissions from the same systems (ponds and flowing waters that became ponds) circa 1900. Beaver population recovery was estimated to have led to the creation of 9500–42 000 km2 of ponded water, and increased riparian interface length of >200 000 km. Continued range expansion and population growth in South America and Europe could further increase CH4 emissions.

Did you catch that? By recovering after we killed them earlier, the rebounding population of beavers are making dams and creating wetlands that emit CH4. Methane is the most prevalent Green house gas.  Greenhouse gases cause global warning Because lord knows its not the cows, or the landfills or the cars or the power companies that are causing global warming.

It’s the beavers!

Water, Water, everywhere

Posted by heidi08 On December - 12 - 20142 COMMENTS


CaptureDSCN0546Our beavers got three and a half inches of rain yesterday, but the flow device was still standing and there was a wet bump under the water indicating at least the mud part of the dam was still in place. I received an email from Robin in Napa which got much more rain than we did. She was heart broken by her visit to the DSCN0551beloved dam that was no longer visible under flooding. I of course said the usual things I say to console myself when these things happen. Beavers rebuild. The dam is probably partly still there underwater. Beavers have faced much harder things than this, have faith in them. And even in the hard flow their lodge was still standing, which was encouraging. Rusty went down a little later and could still see the outline of the dam underneath. (There art thou happy.) But beavers have hard jobs, there’s no denying it. There’s a reason they’re so busy. Our lazy lives are much easier by comparison. Imagine being the breadwinner, the contractor  the engineer, the flood control, and the public works department all at once.
outlineRecognize that familiar bump? It’s what we see every year after a washout,  and it means things aren’t as lost as you thought. I’m just thrilled that there are other souls in the world watching beaver dams in rain storms.

Jon just trotted down to look at our wet “bump” this morning, which he says is still visible. The level is too high to see if the filters in place, but he thinks it is. Jean took this movie just now with her phone. IMG_0628. From now on we can assume our beavers will be doing lots and lots of this.

beaver repairsNow if you have time before all the Christmas parties and you happen to be anywhere near Cape Cod you should really plan on attending this tonight.

 College Students to Present Environmental Science Research Results

The public is invited to attend a symposium featuring the research results of 21 undergraduate students who are participating in the Marine Biological Laboratory’s Semester in Environmental Sciences (SES) program. The symposium will be held from 8:20 AM to 3:30 PM on Friday, December 12, in the MBL’s Lillie Auditorium, 7 MBL Street, Woods Hole.

Sounds amazing. There’s a day worth of 15 minute presentations, but the last three look particularly interesting:

2:45-3:00 – Delaney Gibbs, EARLHAM COLLEGE
The effect of beaver ponds on the nutrient concentrations in the Cart Creek/Parker River Ecosystem within the Plum Island Estuary watershed
3:00-3:15 – Julia McMahon, DICKINSON COLLEGE
Influence of beavers on benthic community trophic structure in Cart Creek within the Plum Island Estuary watershed
3:15-3:30 -Jessie Moravek, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY
The effects of beaver dams on nitrogen-mineralization and community structure in a forest ecosystem

 Oh, to be in Massachusetts now that beavers are the hot topic! I have written the presenters all individually and asked them to share their findings, hopefully we can find out soon. In the meantime keep an eye out for wet bumps in creeks near you!

Be a BRAT!

Posted by heidi08 On December - 8 - 2014Comments Off

Joe Wheaton’s BRAT (Beaver Restoration Assessment Tool) tool has been successfully applied in Utah, Oregon, Washington, Colorado and New Mexico. He was one of the very first respectable professors to support this website. And we recently had a wonderful argument about the difference between being a ‘beaver advocate’ and a ‘beaver benefits advocate’. (You can guess which one I am.)  Wonderful because Joe listened and heard my point of view and understood it, and then it turned out that the thing I was worried about didn’t even happen and we were both relieved!) I was surprised to stumble across this on youtube, and you’ll probably enjoy it.

I was especially happy with the sections on stream incision and dam washouts still restoring aggredation, and the fish research from the work  they’re doing with Michael Pollock at John Day. Here’s a happy take away that you can employ to silence any annoying fisherman who objects to beavers. The tall one represents beaver ponds.

You can totally tell how old this film is by how long Mary’s hair is. Get your ruler.

Town Rallies to Save Beavers in Connecticut

Posted by heidi08 On December - 7 - 2014Comments Off

Essex Beavers Will Live Another Day

Thanks to an outpouring of opposition from local residents at the Dec. 4 Essex Conservation Commission meeting, the beaver family that has currently taken up residency at the Viney Hill Brook Park, will not, as originally—and controversially—decided by the commission, be trapped and drowned.

Upwards of 150 residents, young and old, filled the meeting room at the Town Hall, ready with written statements and heartfelt speeches about why the beavers should be allowed to live freely at the park
“The beavers were here before people came in; it’s more their land than ours,” said 11 year-old Jack Simon who attended the meeting with his mother Laura Simon, a representative from the United States Humane Society.

The elder Simon explained that she would be more than happy to work with the town to come up with a viable solution that doesn’t involve trapping the beavers.

“There are simple alternatives such as wrapping the trees and painting the trees,” Simon said. “These are great community service and boy scout projects.”

This is just the kind of story we love best to hear at beaver central! John Ackerman was a resident who started asking questions on the beaver management forum a while back. I gave him all the advice and inspiration I could, but honestly, I needn’t have bothered. John is apparently adept at being creative and engaging on behalf of beavers all by himself!

“I think we should let the beavers do what they do best, build dams and create wetlands,” said 13 year-old Essex resident Jake Klin. “Viney Brook swimming hole was a mistake for humans, but great for the beavers. Please don’t drown the beavers.”

 “I personally would like to see the beavers stay. I think they can be lived with,” said former first selectman and current State Representative Phil Miller.

 “Instead of being negative about the beavers, why don’t we see them as an opportunity for education? They are a keystone species in Connecticut. We should be working with them not against them,” said resident Megan Schreider, who works at the Denison Pequot Nature Center in Mystic. “This town instilled in me my love of nature growing up and I hope it continues to that for future generations of children. Keeping the beavers alive is one way to do that.”

When I read something like that I am so excited I can hardly stop grinning. The town will bring in Mike Callahan to review the situation and make recommendations. And public works will start wrapping trees. Congratulations John and the people of Essex! You did something extraordinary and should be enormously proud of yourselves. I almost wish Martinez could go back in time and save our beavers all over again! Fantastic work. The meeting wasn’t filmed or photographed unfortunately, but I’m sure this is what it looked like.


sonomabirdingNow it’s bird count morning! Tom and Darren will be busy in the field today with the first of their two highly successful bird counts for kids. If you miss this one, you can still catch the 18th. In the meantime if you need to remember who they are the photo from the beaver festival might help. Tom and Darren have helped us get our footing every step of the way,  They have made sure to include us on many of their ground-breaking events, the Duck Stamp art show, the Optics and Nature fairs. the celebration of the wilderness act in California. Tom and Darren won the John Muir Conservation award last year, and have been invited to Canada and Washington D.C. to implement their ideas. we couldn’t be prouder of them or their friendship

Christmas Bird Count for kids

Calistoga families looking for a fun, outdoor activity that doesn’t involve a ball, but does involve a little math and education, may want to consider the Christmas Bird Count for Kids this winter.

There will be two nearby opportunities for citizen scientists to take part in the National Audubon Society’s Annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC). On Sunday, Dec. 7, a CBC will be held at Connolly Ranch in Napa, and on Sunday, Jan. 18, a CBC will be held at Sonoma Community Center in Sonoma.

 Tom Rusert and Darren Peterie of Sonoma Birding launched Christmas Bird Count for Kids (CBC4Kids) in 2007.

Oh, what a relief it is!

Posted by heidi08 On December - 2 - 2014Comments Off

When I sat down with the numbers of depredation permits issued in California, one fact in particular kept catching my eye. The number of permits issued for Placer county. Contrary to expectation, it doesn’t have more water, or more people, or more culverts.  It consists of seven towns (Auburn, Colfax, Lincoln, Roseville, Rocklin and Loomis) and about 20 unincorporated areas which all have more permission to kill beavers than anywhere else in the state. Nearly 7 times more, which turned out to be significant at the p =<.02 level. This, in case you didn’t take statistics, pretty much means it ain’t random.

So I thought I’d write the two charming representatives from Placer county who wrote them and say, hi my name’s Heidi and I’ve been looking at the depredation permits for beaver in California and I’m curious why you issued a third of them.  Any thoughts? And I was more polite than I wanted to be, but still expected to hear nothing back.

To her credit, the most active member of the beaver-killing squad wrote back. She said Placer county has grown faster than any other region in the state, and permits to kill beavers are issued under 4181 which says that when property is damaged or (threatened)

The department, upon satisfactory evidence of the damage or destruction, actual or immediately threatened, shall issue a revocable permit for the taking and disposition of the mammals under regulations adopted by the commission.

 She said we assess the situation and educate where we can and grant permits when necessary. What she did not say, and which I was dying to know, is what consisted of satisfactory evidence (a site visit? A photo? A phone call?)  and how often did she actually turn down the request, telling the property owner to try something else?

(I’m guessing it’s a round number.)

She also thanked me for the resources I sent but said she already knew all about “beaver relievers” [sic] (Cross my heart – RELIEVERS she called them.) And I was sure it was a typo, or an UH-OH, but when I wrote Sherry Guzzi she pointed me to this paper by Colorado USDA scientist Nicholas Gerich, who (back in 2003) wrote a paper called “Working with beavers”, in which he outlines the pros and cons of several flow devices which he calls (wait for it!) “beaver relievers.”


Many of these solutions work well only if regularly cleaned. When these devices are not regularly inspected and maintained, they will fail with potentially disastrous results. Too many people think that once the device is installed that everything is solved and they can walk away from it.

 It seems Nick was not very impressed with their success rate and said they had to be onerously maintained to even have a hope of working. But given his location I was curious if he’d ever met Sherri Tippie so I emailed him and asked. He said he had taken a class with Sherri shortly before that was written, and had gotten interested in the work when the beaver population “exploded” after the 1996 law. (Deja Vu much?)

exploding beaver

In his experience flow devices “worked in some places” but “not in others”.

Now I know exactly how much maintenance our flow device has required, (none) but I didn’t know if it might have worked less well in Tahoe or Colorado, so I asked Mike and Skip. I particularly liked what  Skip said,

As for the “physics” of the issue, beaver behavior and the properties of moving water are largely the same everywhere.

Now as to that exploding beaver population, I was particularly interested since I had learned that very refrain in Massachusetts many times. You can imagine how happy I was to see this in the paper yesterday from the Prescott Peninsula beaver count

 The beavers are all right: Data returned from survey at restricted Prescott Peninsula

Researchers from the Department of Conservation and Recreation, along with affiliated volunteers, conducted the annual Prescott beaver survey Nov. 16 at the Prescott Peninsula — an area usually off-limits to humans. The survey data, which was compiled last week, shows 15 active inland beaver sites.

 And they ran this:

Real numbers in MA

I know graphs can be hard to read, but that high pointy part on the left shows the highest density of recorded beaver population in 1980. For us following along at home that was 16 years before voters insisted on those pesky humane traps.  The population went up a little after 1996 but settled out with much lower levels than it used to support. Mind you this is just a particularly lush, inaccessible region in the state. Not the whole state. But knowing how beavers feel about trees, water and privacy we can guess its at least equivalent to what we would see all over if anyone was looking. Which means that every single person who tells you that the population of beavers exploded after they made conibear traps harder to use, should look behind them to see if their pants are on fire:



Glass Farm Beaver YS Ohio – photo Scott Stolensberg

A final update from the photographer Scott Stolensberg who graciously gave permission for me to use the photo and was so supportive he wants to donate to the silent auction! Thanks Scott!

Beaver Strategist

Posted by heidi08 On December - 1 - 2014Comments Off

Yesterday an article from Georgia caught my attention. You may remember that Georgia is the state where the original Clemson Pond Leveler was invented, and the state where I first read about beaver tail bounties. Let’s say that in addition to having alligators and very nice peaches, it has a fairly schizophrenogenic stance on beavers in general. Which is why I wasn’t surprised to see this.

Carole Currie: Talking ’bout the wildlife, again

Almost everyone around us at the Georgia farm has a wildlife story, and when there’s a gathering, there’s a lot of storytelling. There are skunks under houses (we’ve had that), deer eating everything (we’ve had that in spades), coyote sounds in the night and bobcat sightings.

Our story continues to be about the critters that keep stopping up the outflow drain at our pond, threatening to cause it to flood over the dam. Once we found the lodge, we knew it was beavers stopping up the drain. We are threatened by the beavers because of the damage they can do by flooding the pond and ruining the dam and to the surrounding trees. But the more we learn about the beavers, the more we have to admire them.

A recent “Nature” program on public television shed a lot of light on these overgrown members of the rodent family. The sound of running water to a beaver is like a call to work. They want to stop it, and they do so by packing the drain with mud. Somewhat blind and slow on land, they are fast in the water.

They are sociable, family-oriented critters who earn their reputation as being “busy as beavers.” They just don’t give up. Walt unstops the pond, and the next morning it is stopped up again. With their long orange teeth, they can fell a large tree overnight to pile onto their dam.

Once beavers were valued for their furs to make hats. When the hats went out of style and beavers overpopulated, many were eradicated but they are coming back. There are either eco heroes now because of their ability to create wetlands for wildlife and cattle or pests who want to dam up our pond.

It makes for a good critter story but one without a good ending for us or the beavers.

This made me think Carole needed a letter. So I wrote her about protecting the overflow on her pond and the benefits beavers could bring if she let them stay. I told her how it would be saving money because if she trapped them out more would just come next year.  I told what we had done in Martinez (did you know there’s a Martinez in Georgia? My niece used to live there. They pronounce it mar-tin- EZ.) I was careful not to sound too ‘California’ in my email and said if she needed regional resources she should talk to the folks at the Blue Heron Preserve in Atlanta or Stephanie Boyle in West Virginia.

And whadaya know, she promptly wrote back!

Heidi, thanks so much for your thoughtful and informative e-mail. It casts things in a whole new light.

Which was nice. And maybe because I finished watching West Wing on Netflix last night, made me realize something: I’m kinda political strategist for beavers. A national beaver strategist? An North American beaver strategist? More like a  Global beaver strategist! (GBS) and at the moment, weirdly enough, I’m the only one. Which is pretty amazing if you think about it in this day and age to be the only one of anything is fairly surprising. (Don’t believe me? Go ahead, take your wildest and most creative thought and google it. A million people around the world have already thought it and written it down.)

national map`

So it means something to be the only GBS. But it won’t last  forever. I may be the only one now, but the only one so far. There are so many more regional beaver strategists than their were eight years ago when we started this campaign, that I’m sure many more GBS will come soon. Which is wonderful in a way I can barely describe.

I can’t wait to be redundant.