Archive for the ‘Educational’ Category

To Beaver or Not To Beaver?

Posted by heidi08 On May - 25 - 2017ADD COMMENTS

More silly mulling from the Scottish countyside: Should beavers be allowed or not? A reader on the Tayside group pointed out that this same argument could have been made 15 years ago, I say probably longer than that.

Beaver reintroduction – what’s the story?

Their reputation as strong swimmers and prodigious engineers is not an understatement. Their large incisors and clawed front feet enable them to construct dams and lodges that can extend for hundreds of metres, as well as burrows of up to 20 metres into the riverbank.

“Any species introduction, particularly if it has not been in this country for hundreds of years, can have a massive impact on the many benefits that the countryside delivers,” Mark Pope, an arable farmer from Somerset who has instigated numerous initiatives to provide habitat and food for birds and insects and encourage diverse plant species on his farm, said.

“In the case of beavers, the NFU has concerns about the damage to farmland and the landscape caused by their physical activities.” Mark, who is also chair of the NFU Environment Forum, added. “Farmers and the public must have the tools to manage the impacts beavers will have to farmland, the countryside, flood defences and urban areas.

“Beavers can add biodiversity, as well as the interest, enjoyment and socio-economic benefits they can provide to many people. What the NFU is very clear on is that in some locations there is a clear need to manage this species to minimise undesirable impacts on agriculture, forestry, inland waters and other land uses.”

There is increasing interest in the beneficial role beavers could bring to habitats. The natural activities of beavers could help to regulate flooding and improve water quality, if managed properly. The Devon trial on the River Otter, led by the Devon Wildlife Trust in partnership with Clinton Devon Estates, the University of Exeter and the Derek Gow Partnership, has been exploring the role of beavers in managing and creating wetland habitats, the impacts on water quality, and influence on water flow and flood risk.

Tolkein once wrote “Go not to the elves for council, for they will say both ‘No’ and ‘Yes’.” Mostly no, though.

On the other hand, beaver burrows near watercourses can weaken river embankments and flood defences. Material felled and gathered by beavers for dams and lodges can create flood risk downstream and block drains upstream. The potential consequences of this for farmland and the rural economy is a cause for concern.

It is estimated that the costs of the 2007 and 2013-14 floods on agricultural businesses alone were £50m and £19m respectively, not to mention the wider economic impacts on local employment, infrastructure and utilities and the damage caused to people’s homes and communities.

The knock-on effects can be wide-ranging. The loss of productive farmland, for instance, would have a detrimental effect on food production and supply.

The Scottish Beaver Trial was a five-year project between the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, the Scottish Wildlife Trust and Forestry Commission Scotland to undertake a trial reintroduction of beavers to Knapdale, Mid-Argyll. The trial concluded in 2014 and as a result the Scottish government is considering recognising the European beaver as a native species.

A change in the legal status of beavers raises additional concerns. This is because beavers have no natural predators in the UK so it is important that populations can be managed, particularly if they are present in extensive low-lying areas such as East Anglia, Wiltshire and the Somerset Levels where their activities could block field drains leading to waterlogging (known as ‘wetting up’) of productive farmland.

Clarification: Beavers might benefit us if they don’t kills us all first.  “We killed off all their natural predators in the UK so there’s nothing left  to kill them and their numbers will swell like taxes with national health”. Are there no otters? No bacteria? No vehicles in your land? Beavers just don’t get killed by predators you know. And honestly, why act like you want to explore an issue and ONLY speak to one farming fiend from the National Farmers Union?

Who’s going to list all the many benefits for fish, wildlife, birds and water storage that come with beavers? Who’s going to talk about how much you can learn about nature by watching them? Who’s going to say how much they improve the health and vitality of urban waterways?

We need a National Beavers Union!!!



Artfully done

Posted by heidi08 On May - 21 - 2017Comments Off on Artfully done

It’s Sunday, and there’s so much good news to share I’ll be choosy and just show you the very best for now. First there is a nice article following Mike Callahan’s beaver presentation Smyrski Farm owned by the Weatinoge Land Trust.

Maybe the fierce-eyed bald eagle is the national symbo, but beavers — those social, endlessly industrious homebodies — fired the exploration of North America more than any other creature. To get their pelts, traders and trappers moved across the continent years ahead of any settlers.

“They make drastic changes to the landscape,” said Mike Callahan of Beaver Solutions, a Massachusetts-based company dedicated to helping beavers and humans peacefully coexist. “Usually for the better.”

As with the other large mammals that have found the state to their liking — white-tailed deer, black bear, coyote — humans now have to learn to live with beaver. Gone from Connecticut for at least a century and a half, they’re back in force, slapping tails, damming streams, sometimes flooding back yards.

“Native Americans called them ‘little people’ because other than humans, no other animal changes the environment so much,” Callahan said.

When beavers build a dam, that makes a pond. That makes an open habitat in the middle of the woods, where aquatic plants, fish, waterfowl, muskrat and mink can all thrive.

“They’re really great at creating an awesome heterogeneous landscape with lots of biodiversity,” said Mike Jastremski, watershed conservation director for the Housatonic Valley Association.

Beaver ponds help regulate downstream flooding with the newly created wetlands soaking up rain water like a giant sponge.

After a time, when the beavers vacate the premises, the dam deteriorates, the pond flows away, and you’ve got a new habitat — a woodland meadow. A new set of species adapts to that. Eventually, when that meadows grows back to woods, beavers can return.

Callahan now makes his living installing systems to let people and beavers coexist. The only other option is trapping and killing them. There are too many beavers in the state to relocate them.

“They used to move them to somewhere else,” Josephson of the Naromi Land Trust said. “Now, there is nowhere else.”

“They’re sort of like mice,” said Marge Josephson, president of the Naromi Land Trust in Sherman. “If you see one mouse in your house, it means you’ve got a lot of mice. If you see one beaver, you’ve got more than one.”

Hurray for Mike, traveling between states to spread the beaver gospel with other land trusts.  Clearly Mr. Jamstremski did his homework on the topic and understands why all this all matters. We’re not so sure about Marge (who needs politely reminding that its not generally a good idea to remind listeners that beavers are like mice in their house!)


My mailbox has been ringing with donations all week for our silent auction at the beaver festival, but I’m going to start with the watercolor prints by Robert Mancini  of Melbourne Australia.

He is a truly talented artist  that works to capture the natural world with his prodigious gift. I still can’t believe how generous he was with us.  Obviously his beaver painting got my attention first, but I was thrilled to see the many others he included, of which these are just a sample., all signed and on quality paper. Go look at his website to see how talented he truly is. Thank you Rob, for your generous support of beavers!





Three States and Counting

Posted by heidi08 On May - 10 - 2017Comments Off on Three States and Counting

There was a rickety bridge I used to cross when I walked across the creek to my volunteer job back in the long-agoes. Every time I did so I began by carefully considering whether  the rotten old thing would be strong enough to hold me one more time.  In the back of my mind I knew I should give up and go the long way – but the long way was very long. And the parts of the bridge without holes were pretty sturdy looking. Eventually I would pick my way across the strongest bits surprised that the thing which looked so worn out still had strength left in it. In all those years I never fell 25 feet to my death and it never failed me.

I’m hoping that our democracy is like that bridge this morning. Meanwhile, let’s talk about beavers.

beaver physBeaver has a very nice story about climate change and our favorite topic, so this article about the Wildlife Conservation Society is exactly the right place to start. I especially love the title:

The latest weapons against climate change: The beaver, the oyster, cold water and more…

Beavers, high elevation streams, and oyster reefs are just three of the weapons in the fight against climate change discussed in 14 Solutions to Problems Climate Change Poses for Conservation, a new report released today by WCS.

From re-introduced beavers restoring the water storage capacity of ecosystems in Utah and Washington, to redesigned culverts that accommodate flooding in Upstate New York, the report showcases 14 inventive “real-world” solutions to a warming climate threatening wildlife and ecosystems worldwide.

Solutions profiled include traditional and innovative conservation tools applied strategically to address such as decreasing water availability, increasing risk of flooding and wildfires, rising sea levels, direct effects on species and habitats, and changing land use and human behaviors.

WCS Climate Adaptation Fund Program Director Darren Long said, “We are thrilled to share our ’14 Solutions’ report, and for others to learn from the adaptation work of those whose projects are showcased here. These solutions are on the leading edge of a field where traditional conservation work is no longer sustainable or strategic in light of .”

One of those fourteen solutions was a grant to the Methow Project in Washington, another was building pretend beaver dams in Montana. Go read the report here, and just be grateful there are little steps we can make to  help ourselves, and organizations like WCS to help us do it.

CaptureTime to visit Boston College where Beaver researcher Peter Busher has some interesting desk-o-rations. HDr. Busher hasn’t always been what I call a beaver believer, but he’s always been interested in the animal.  Go to the website where you can see an interactive page that allows you to click on specific items and learn why they’re on his desk. I am currently wondering if this intriguing fact is true:

CaptureYou know I’m already off to examine ALL the beaver chews in our house and compare incisor width. I asked a few experts whether they agree, because it’s nothing I ever head before. Oooh interesting.

Now onto Nebraska where their Ground water festival is in full swing. It’s been going on since 1988 so okay, they have us beat. But I’m not exactly impressed with the activity or the teaching about beavers! (Troubling statements will appear in red!)

Fourth-graders learn of key role of beavers and wetlands in nature

Build, Beaver, Build was a new activity presented by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission at the Children’s Groundwater Festival on Tuesday at Central Community College in Grand Island.Monica Macoubrie, wildlife education assistant, quizzed Boone Central fourth-graders about beavers and why they are critical to groundwater.

After her instruction, the kids enjoyed making an edible beaver lodge out of pretzels and chocolate frosting.

“We talk about why beaver dams are so important for groundwater and all the other species that use the wetland areas,” Macoubrie said. “Then they make their own beaver lodges. Lodges are different than dams, and we want to show the kids the difference.”

Macoubrie passed a couple of props, including a beaver skull, around to the students. She told them that beavers are members of the rodent family and that the unique orange coloring of their teeth is characteristic of rodents.

Really? Are rabbit teeth orange? Prairie dog?

Scientists classify beavers as keystone creatures because the ponds and wetlands created by their lodges are also used by many other animals and plants. Macoubrie quizzed the students about what kinds of creatures depend on the wetlands created by beavers.

Keystone species are anything that affects other animals,” she said. “Without our keystone species, those other animals would not be as abundant as they are.”

Another reason beavers are a keystone species is the fact that half of all threatened and endangered animals in North America rely on wetlands.

“Without those beavers, we would not have half of those animals,” Macoubrie said.

Which half, the front half?

She said beaver populations are doing well in Nebraska.

“They are considered a least concerned species, so we have a lot of them,” Macoubrie said.In fact, Nebraska Game and Parks officials are sometimes called to help relocate beavers when their dams present a flooding problem for property, she said.

Okay, in a metaphysical way, death IS a kind of relocation. The last relocation.

Marcia Lee, festival coordinator, said Cedar Hollow teachers Ashley Dvorak and Lola Hoover attended the festival with 44 students. Dodge Elementary teachers Michelle Carter, Alma Gutierrez, Amy Mingus and Nikki Stevens brought 67 students. Knickrehm Elementary teachers Sydney Gartner and Diane Meyer attended with 32 students. Trinity Lutheran teacher Wendy Heider brought 11 students.

Overall, 744 students attended this year’s festival with 43 teachers from 19 schools. More than 30,000 students have been educated at the festival since 1988. The Nebraska Children‘s Groundwater Festival has been replicated in 41 states in the U.S., Mexico, Canada, India and the United Kingdom.

The Groundwater festival is a big big deal with a big foundation and financial backers. In Platte Nebraska it is focused on regional issues and makes a huge difference. I can’t exactly argue with that and I’m glad they teach about beavers. Fracking pressures are driving water protections down in the region, and for people to learn more about what sustains them seems necessary. I can’t help be curious how much money fracking donates to these festivals. I’m sure its some respectable amount designed to influence and make things appear rosy.

But let’s face it, the ground water festival needs some better beaver education and activity. I think I’ll just drop them a note.