Archive for the ‘Environmental’ Category

NOUB: (Not Our Urban Beavers)

Posted by heidi08 On March - 25 - 2017ADD COMMENTS

A lovely report from Napa has made the “Best of the Bohemian” writer’s picks for 2017 already, courtesy of our good friend Robin Ellison.

Most Adorable Department of Water ResourcesCapture

A great feat of endurance, strength and resolve to make tomorrow another day is going almost unnoticed in the midst of urban Napa, after torrential rains burst dams and washed away homes, leaving some of its most vulnerable residents homeless, shivering in the cold. Not so much human residents, bulodge with carst the beaver residents of Tulocay Creek. “It has been a wild winter at the beaver pond,” says Robin Ellison, a Napa wildlife watcher who’s kept a close watch on the beavers since they made a short stretch of this humble, urban creek channel their home several years ago. During the drought, the beavers set to work on a simple stick dam, creating habitat for birds and other wildlife, rebuilding after a storm in January 2016 flooded their home. Then, in 2017, winter turned on the beaver family like some White Witch, unleashing three damn-blowing storms in a row. “Tulocay Creek came within a foot of spilling its banks, and the magnificent beaver lodge was swept away,” Ellison reports. “The poor beavers were homeless and befuddled the following week, out in daylight trying hard to stay awake.” Ellison’s photo of a beaver that had worked so hard to build a new dam for its family that it fell asleep on the branch it was gnawing, would surely affect even the heart of someone who regards nature’s hydrologic engineers as mere pesky rodents. At last report, the rebuilt lodge has an impressive foyer entrance.—J.K.

Ahhh that’s sweet so to see celebrated! And beaver guardians never go out of style. Great job, Robin! I’m so old I remember when the Martinez Beaver Story was the pick of the year for unexpected wonders. Now they can’t even be bothered to publish the story they sent a reporter and a photographer out to capture! (I was told last weekend, then wednesday and now I have NO idea!)
Never mind, this is better anyway.

Time for another nice article about ENCOURAGING urban beavers and our new best friend, Kate Holleran!

Listening to the Land: Dam, Beavers! Dam!

<As humans have come to understand and value the critical role of wetlands in healthy ecosystems, beavers—the world’s greatest wetland engineers—are finally getting the respect they deserve. In the first of several beaver-appreciation events in Seaside, join scientist Kate Holleran at the Seaside Public Library on Wednesday, April 19, at 6 p.m. for an evening exploring how to encourage beavers to return to our communities—and how to live with the results. “Dam, Beaver! Dam!” is the fourth of five wildlife-themed Listening to the Land presentations in 2017. Admission is free.Even urban areas, where beavers were long considered pests, are now welcoming beavers as partners in habitat restoration efforts. Holleran, a senior natural resources scientist at Metro in the Portland area, has implemented several projects to improve the aquatic and forest habitat along Johnson Creek on the east side of the Metro district, on Chehalem Ridge on the west side, and on other nearby streams, much to the delight of beavers. She’ll talk about beaver restoration research and her own experience with beavers, exploring how her team has lured beavers back to streams and how adjacent landowners are coping with the effects of beaver activities on their property.

Kate is an ecologist for OregonMetro which coordinates the city parks and open spaces, because Portland. She is a big believer in beaver ecology and teaches groups to spot beaver for different watershed organizations. I’m thinking she should come to our next beaver festival and get inspired to start her own.

And by the way, isn’t it wonderful to see two stories that promote Urban Beavers that are not about US? Think about that for a moment, and consider if you will how many such stories graced the newspapers ten years ago. Got the answer? That would be NONE. We are the river from which all urban beavers flow. Literally in Napa because that might well be offspring, and figuratively in Portland, because our success story made them unashamed to discuss the topic aloud.

Honestly, no forefather could be prouder. Just look how far urban beavers have come.

Because why not Blame the Beaver?

Posted by heidi08 On March - 24 - 2017ADD COMMENTS

Oh those crazy beavers with their penchant for sinkholes and collapsed roads! When are they going to stop harassing us with their rodent ways and let us live peacefully. On ALLIGATOR lake.Capture

Beavers the culprit in 30A road collapse

“We’ve always had problems with beavers where we don’t have a bridge,” said Chance Powell, an engineer for Walton County

One of the great mysteries early Thursday morning was solved after it was determined that beavers were the most likely culprit for the sinkhole that has closed Walton County Road 30A near County Road 283.

Beavers? Beavers!

The Walton County Sheriff’s Office received a call just after 5 a.m. Thursday about a sinkhole on 30A at Alligator Lake.

According to County Commissioner Tony Anderson, who was present as county crews began to fill the extensive hole, a GMC pickup was crossing the section of road when the asphalt began to cave in. The vehicle made it across, but the pickup was damaged and the man driving it was taken to Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast with minor injuries, said Walton County Public Works Manager Wilmer Stafford.

“The water that flows under the road became too heavy on one side and caused it to fall in,” said Stafford, who also was at the scene later in the morning.

 The section of CR 30A surrounding the collapse site has been closed until the road can be repaired.

On the surface, the hole appears to be about 4 feet wide and takes up three-quarters of the road in front of Alligator Lake. But officials calculate that crew must deal with a much larger area of damage under the road.

But wait, how do the beavers make the sink hole exactly? Are you saying they tunneled under the asphalt to get away from the alligators, or chew holes in the road with their huge incisors, or that maybe the road was stuffed with willow and they ate it? The article is a little vague on the actual mechanics of destruction.  But I’m sure they’re telling the truth, right? People would never blame a rodent for something just to explain away a problem that their carelessness caused in the first place.

I guess it will stay a mystery, like how beavers live near ALLIGATOR lake in the first place.


Come to think of it, maybe they can sign up for the flow device WEBINAR coming soon from our friends at Furbearer Defenders and Cows and Fish. It will be taught by Adrien Nelson and Norine Ambrose and you are ALL invited. It’s a bargain at 5 dollars. Make sure to save your space now.

Learn how to successfully implement flow devices for beaver management in your community with our upcoming webinar, Beaver Flow Devices for Managers.

On April 6, 2017 at 3:30 pm EDT / 1:30 pm MDT / 12:30 pm PDT, Adrian Nelson of The Fur-Bearers, and Norine Ambrose from Cows and Fish will co-host this engaging webinar that will focus on the “whys” and “wheres” of implementing these devices. Managers and supervisors from a range of backgrounds will learn to better understand the applicability of these devices, as well as analyze sites requiring beaver management, and address which type of flow devices are most appropriate. 

Adrian will walk through the different types of devices, and how to make each one successful, as well as various obstacles and needs that may need to be addressed before deployment. The presentation will also touch briefly on ordering and supplies to ensure teams have the right materials for success.

Norine will tell participants of her first-hand experience in learning about and installing these devices in Alberta, and let participants know about the broader beaver collaborative work on education, social science, and management Cows and Fish is involved with the Miistakis Institute, local partners, and support from The Fur-Bearers.

Participants will come away with a better understanding of flow devices, but more importantly why they are useful to successfully co-exist with beavers. A question and answer period will follow.

I actually didn’t know these good folks knew each other, so I might watch just to learn more about their interaction. We will definitely learn things!

Spoiled for Beaver Choice

Posted by heidi08 On March - 23 - 2017ADD COMMENTS

Some days there is so little beaver news that I am left sorting through my ragged thoughts and trying to find something new to say about them. This week has been a beaver explosion, so I can barely keep up. First there is the smart new beaver page out offered by Esther Lev of the Wetlands Conservancy and some graduate students who accepted the beaver challenge. You will have fun browsing the projects. Use the link to visit the site which connects to each project. I’ll let them describe the ‘zine’ themselves.

During the 2017 Winter Term, eight graduate students from the Master of Urban and Regional Planning, Master of Fine Arts, and Master of Environmental Science and Management programs at Portland State University engaged in a study of beavers in the Pacific Northwest.  The question was whether better understanding the beaver could help us understand more about the culture, identity, and character of the Pacific Northwest, particularly for those of us engaged in planning and other activities with and for communities in the region.

The project had two components.  First, each student identified a topic associated with beavers, and developed a research paper that explored that topic.  All of those papers are posted here for your use and enjoyment.  During the term we read Frances Backhouse’s Once they were Hats, her very informative and engaging book about beavers in North America.  Thanks to Esther Lev, Wetlands Conservancy Executive Director, and Sara Vickerman Gage, we were able to spend a morning discussing the book with Frances Backhouse.  We gratefully acknowledge the importance of both Frances’ work and her presence in the class with us.  If you are interested in and/or care about beavers, do read her book!

Second, each student used their paper as the point of departure for creating pages for a class “zine” about beavers.  A zine is a short, self-published, and mostly hand-crafted magazine.  Usually combining words and images, the zine form attempts to both transmit information to and engage the imagination of the reader.  Preliminary research in Portland revealed hardly any zines about or featuring beavers.  We aimed to fill that void, at least in part.

3 screenTWC is who had me talk in Portland last year and is responsible for the art show “Beaver Tales” that is in its second venue. They are doing beaver-work wonders. I am thrilled that they’re on the scene and that all these students will remember beavers in their masters training.

A second exciting development came from our beaver friends in the Czech University of Life Sciences. They recently completed the English translation of their ‘living with beavers’ guidebook. There is a lot of great info on management and history, so I would take some good time to browse. There’s a great discussion of tree protection and flow devices, as well as some pretty creative solutions for preventing bank burrows. Enjoy!


“Mní wičhóni”

Posted by heidi08 On March - 22 - 2017Comments Off on “Mní wičhóni”

A very interesting thread appeared on my beaver news-feed yesterday. It began by talking about the native protests of the Dakota pipeline. Then ended by discussing the relationship between beavers and water and Native Americans.

Why is water sacred to Native Americans?

The Lakota phrase “Mní wičhóni,” or “Water is life,” has become a new national protest anthem.

It was chanted by 5,000 marchers at the Native Nations March in Washington, D.C. on March 10, and during hundreds of protests across the United States in the last year. “Mní wičhóni” became the anthem of the almost year-long struggle to stop the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline under the Missouri River in North Dakota.

For Native Americans, water does not only sustain life – it is sacred.

Native American tribes on the Great Plains knew something else about the relationship between themselves, the beaver and water. They learned through observation that beavers helped create an ecological oasis within a dry and arid landscape.

As Canadian anthropologist R. Grace Morgan hypothesized in her dissertation “Beaver Ecology/Beaver Mythology,” the Blackfeet sanctified the beaver because they understood the natural science and ecology of beaver behavior.

Morgan believed that the Blackfeet did not harm the beaver because beavers built dams on creeks and rivers. Such dams could produce enough of a diversion to create a pond of fresh clean water that allowed an oasis of plant life to grow and wildlife to flourish.

Beaver ponds provided the Blackfeet with water for daily life. The ponds also attracted animals, which meant the Blackfeet did not have to travel long distances to hunt. The Blackfeet did not need to travel for plants used for medicine or food, as well.

Beaver ponds were a win-win for all concerned in “the Great American desert” that modern ecologists and conservationists are beginning to study only now.

For the Blackfeet, Lakota and other tribes of the Great Plains, water was “life.” They understood what it meant to live in a dry arid place, which they expressed through their religion and within their ecological knowledge.

R. Grace Morgan’s dissertation on beaver ecology and mythology? What? Why had I never heard of it? I went hunting immediately thinking that everyone else knew something I didn’t. I found the entire dissertation online at the University of Alberta library and just the abstract was enough to send thrills up my spine.

CaptureI sent it along to some beaver-minded folks just in case they hadn’t seen it either and Michael Pollock wrote immediately back, confirming that the oversight wasn’t mine alone.

“WOW! Heidi, what a total score. Just read the abstract, fascinating.”

1So I wasn’t the only one, and I settled in for a good read. I’m about half way through, but I have to keep stopping to make notes or tell someone else how cool it is.  I thought I’d share some highlights. Basically she postulates that for the plain tribes in the middle of Canada and North America, water was so scarce that they valued anything that protected it. They evolved a taboo system about killing beavers, so that no one wanted to eat beaver meet or wear beaver skins because it would ultimately threaten that water resource. They relied totally on the buffalo for survival for most of their needs. And the beaver was literally the “sacred cow they would never harm.

Because beavers save water, and water was life.

Then the Fur Trade came marching along and threatened that way of life. For centuries the Blackfoot Indians refused to help out hunting beaver, until the entire economy started revolving around beaver. Then their enemies who were willing to become beaver enemies started to get preferential status. The tribes they had quarreled in the past were suddenly armed with guns and ammunition because they agreed to help. Dr. Morgan was the first to pose that the sacredness of the beaver eroded under economic and hostile pressure. They reluctantly did what was needed and started to kill the thing that saved their water until all the beaver had gone the way of the buffalo and dinosaur before them.

abAnd do you think it might be important for a water vulnerable state like CALIFORNIA to know about this dissertation? Or remember why the things that save water are sacred? R. Grace Morgan returned to academic life after her children were grown and was in her fifties when the dissertation was completed in 1991, nearly a decade before Dr. Glynnis Hood showed up to study the same subject in the same area of Elk Island, Alberta. Glynnis said they never met, but she heard good things about her from colleagues. Dr. Morgan was an archeologist – not an ecologist. And some of the things her dissertation faithfully reports about beavers have since been debunked, like the fact that their dams never blow out. But she got so much right. I wish we had met.  She died at age 81 last February after a long struggle with oviarian cancer.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some reading to do.

If water is life



Make way for Beavers!

Posted by heidi08 On March - 19 - 2017Comments Off on Make way for Beavers!

It’s Sunday. All the cut-outs are done for the “Martinez-Loves-Beavers” art project at Earth Day. And we may well have beavers in Martinez. That all sounds like good news to me. But maybe you need some more, just to make sure. How about the appearance of our good friend Ann Riley on Chicago Public Television talking about why WILLOW is especially important to creeks. Ahem.


The Streams Below Our Streets | San Francisco

Cities once converted streams into sewers to make room for development. But now there’s a growing movement to unearth these buried waterways.

They flow beneath city streets, sidewalks, and even homes: creeks and streams across the United States were once forced underground into sewers, drainpipes, and culverts to make way for urban development.

For more than 30 years, efforts have been made in and around the Berkeley, California area to uncover—or “daylight”—the area’s buried waterways. The term daylighting was coined here in the 1980s, to describe efforts to bring Strawberry Creek back aboveground.

In 1903, a four-acre section of Strawberry Creek had been led into a culvert to allow construction of a Santa Fe Railway right-of-way. When Santa Fe abandoned the property in the early 1980s, the land was acquired by the city, and a park was proposed for the site.

As part of the park’s development, the Berkeley Parks and Recreation Commission planned to remove the 300-foot concrete pipe and expose the enclosed section of water. Although the idea was initially rejected by the city as too expensive and dangerous, the commission eventually implemented the plan. Activists argued that the transformation of the site from a derelict railroad right-of-way to a natural waterway would provide stormwater relief, and create heightened awareness about the ecology of streams.

The groundbreaking project represented the first time a culvert had been dug up and re-created in a channel, and helped pave the way for the formation of the Berkeley-based Urban Creeks Council in 1982. Co-founded by Dr. Ann L. Riley, the Urban Creeks Council was established to foster the preservation, protection, restoration, and management of natural waterways in urban environments. In addition, the non-profit organization works to educate the public on the ecological, aesthetic, and recreational values of restored urban streams.

Riley was introduced to urban stream restoration while she was training in the academic field of fluvial geomorphology with scientist Luna Leopold—who Riley called “the father of modern-day river restoration.” Fluvial geomorphology is the study of how water forms the earth.

Riley shows jon what to do

Riley shows jon what to do

Riley & Cory plan the attack!

Riley & Cory plan the attack!


Just in case you don’t remember Riley, she’s the awesome beaver supporter and author who helped Worth A Dam plant willow for the last three years which our very schizophrenic city helped her do and then promptly pulled up. Ahh, memories. Sometimes she obviously has much better luck. If you didn’t watch the video, go watch now. It’s really well done and we are SO lucky she’s on our side.

ann teaching

Our donation this week for the silent auction is an watercolor painting that comes from artist Patricia Manning in Tonawanda New York. When she’s not busy crafting, sewing dollhouse clothing or raising her two girls, she likes to paint the natural world she sees. So obviously she chose our favorite subject. What got my attention first about this painting was the striking rings of water, which is something I’ve come to associate so intimately with watching beaver activity. They write everything they do on the water surface, which is lovely to see. Thanks Pamela for your generous donation! We’ll make sure to find it a good home!


Ohio has beaver nostalgia!

Posted by heidi08 On March - 9 - 2017Comments Off on Ohio has beaver nostalgia!

What a pleasant surprise! An article from Ohio about beavers that isn’t discussing how to trap them! Richland County is in the middle of the state, down below Lake Eerie.

A living heritage: Beaver in Richland County

It has been more than two centuries since beaver shaped the rivers and creeks of Richland County, but at long last they are quietly reclaiming little pools of their ancestral wetlands.

When the first settlers came to the forested hills of Richland County in the early 1800s they encountered many wild animals we seldom or never find here today. Their letters and diaries and later reminiscences document the abundance of wolves and bears, otters and panthers.

But there is one common native of the American wilderness that was never listed in their memoirs because, by the time the pioneers arrived in the early 1800s, this critter had already been hunted out of these lands.

That was the beaver.

The last people who saw beaver in Richland County were Wyandot and Huron hunters, or French fur trappers.  The Richland beaver clan gradually departed here through the decades of the 1700s: carried out bundle at a time as furry pelts.

The fur was toted to a frontier trading post; then made its way to the coast where it was loaded on a ship and sailed across the ocean. Somewhere in Europe the fur was processed into waterproof felt material, and then manufactured into hats.

You’ll note the date that Richland last saw beavers was about 100 years before California lost out. It’s funny to think about the cascading domino effect that swept the nation in slow motion, East to West, over many years ago as the loss of beavers back drove folks ever west to find more.  Funny in an eerie kind of way, I mean,  not at all amusing to think about the drought and wildlife devastation that followed the hunt.

There were a lot of people in Europe in those days and they all wore hats.

The best hats were made from beaver fur because these warm blooded animals evolved in chilly ponds so their skins are naturally designed to keep water out and heat in. If a hat was to shed rain it was well to be manufactured from the soft, dense under fur of a beaver.

When permanent residential villages were established along the Clear Fork and the Black Fork in the 1700s, they were peopled mostly with clans of diverse tribes who had been displaced from their homelands by Beaver War conflicts.

The other major impact that the Beaver Wars had on Richland County was the complete extermination of Mohican watershed beavers.

Richland County happens to be placed on the continent at a particularly generous confluence of influences—bedrock stratum and weather pattern—that produces a wealth of water resources. We have a ‘Spring field’ township precisely because water is so plentiful it cannot be contained under the ground.

So imagine what happened when these two dynamic natural elements—water and beaver—were free to interact in wild genius.

Back then every Richland stream, creek, and tributary was undoubtedly repurposed by beaver, and shaped by their dams. The image we have today, of meandering streams flowing through the bottom of carved creek beds, did not exist in the era of beaver. These same waterways 300 years ago would have been seen as a series of small beaver ponds.

True. And every single one of those ponds were filled with wood duck and otter and trout so thick a man could walk across them. But why dwell on the past. It was a great idea turning all those little furry engineers into gold, right? That’s why we’re still doing it every day – trading our clear streams for fracking waste water and letting oil wells tunnel into every public land. Because what good is the environment if you can’t spend it. Amirite?


Since the beaver disappeared 200 years ago Richland County has transformed: dried out, plowed and planted, and paved so dramatically the animals could hardly be expected to recognize the place. Yet, interestingly enough, when they made their way back here 20-30 years ago, one of the places they gravitated toward is a wetland that they may well have created themselves hundreds of years ago.

Almost like a homing instinct they have set up camp once again at the headwaters of the Clear Fork River.

It is marshland today, and seemingly created through construction of the Clear Fork Reservoir. Yet documents from engineers in the 1940s show that the area was already waterlogged before they built the dam.

In fact records from 200 years ago, when surveyors first paced off the wilderness of Richland County, indicate there was a backlogged stream in the place even then.

This marsh is situated within a stretch of landscape that is otherwise well drained. By the surface and subsurface evidence, a local geologist and forensic landscaper suggests that this bit of wetland may well have been first terraformed by beaver engineers hundreds or thousands of years ago in order to create a comfy neighborhood for their community.

Perhaps the beavers who navigate the marsh today are direct descendants of the ones who started the swamp long ago when they backed up the waters of the Clear Fork.

I think this author is having a wistful moment wondering what the watershed looked with a healthy beaver population. Good for him. I know I always am. I can’t imagine if it will ever get that way again, but if beavers have their way they will turn our ruined city waterways to wetlands the same way they have transformed Chernobyl.  They won’t need our help or invitation either. I don’t know where the human race will be when that happens, but I suspect the beavers won’t miss it.

Timothy Brian McKee is a featured columnist on our site every Saturday with a column titled Native Son. Every Tuesday, he taps into his knowledge and collection of historical photos and bring us Then & Now, a brief glance at the way things were.

Beaver Roundup

Posted by heidi08 On March - 8 - 2017Comments Off on Beaver Roundup

Beaver Round-Up 2017

The great “Beaver Roundup” takes place in Dillingham Alaska at the northern edge of the Bering sea and the outer limit of the Tongiak Wildlife Refuge, ( (famous for walruses and herring). The Roundup started as the outgrowth of  a kind of Rendezvous-like fur exchange where the trappers would meet up to compete for best price and swap stories. As the ice starts to break up beaver yearlings leave their family lodge to find a new home sand that’s a good time to get some nice winter pelts.  Since the only transportation was by sled-dog, a sled-dog competition was the natural offspring of the gathering. There are still no roads in Dillingham, so the only access is by sea or air. Now the annual event is more than 70 years old and it’s a weekend-long much anticipated gathering of early March.

There’s a parade and a beauty contest,  games and contests of all sorts. A highlight of the day is when a plane flies overhead and drops candy and ping pong balls which the many children gather. (I’m not sure what the appeal is of ping pong balls, since there doesn’t appear to be tournament – but I guess since they’re white on the white snow it presents a challenge to find them?) Think of it like a kind of an Easter egg hunt from the sky.


Except, it started by trapping beavers.Capture



Maybe you can explain why the Tongiak Wildlife Refuge is a sponsor of the event? They took first place in the parade this year with their ‘snow goose’. I guess its a different world where protecting wildlife by saving it for hunters makes perfect sense. And plus its REALLY cold (13 today) and quite honestly, unless you’re a walrus, there’s not much else to do.