Attentive readers might remember the ongoing saga of Taylor Creek in South Lake Tahoe. It is off highway 89 between Lake Tahoe and Fallen Leaf Lake. It was the subject of one of the best beaver dissertations, pointing out how beaver dams in the creek were helpful for preventing silt from getting to the lake. It was also the site of the well-attended Kokanee salmon festival, in which the non-native salmon is famously celebrated. And the naturally occurring beaver dams are removed to protect the unnaturally occurring pretend salmon.
When this was repeatedly pointed out to the good folks of USDA and mentioned in Tom Knudson’s 2012 article, the name was mysteriously changed to the “Fall Fish Festival” and refocused on small native species like that live in Lake Tahoe and its rivers. “In addition to the Kokanee, these species include the federally threatened Lahontan cutthroat trout and little-known smaller fish, such as speckled dace.”Since this coincided with the publication of our beaver nativity papers for the Sierra Nevadas, the issue had some heft and was read written and discussed in all the local papers.
Things have proceeded at a glacial pace of supposed progress with their attitude towards beavers, allowing for some conversations with our beaver friends in the area. Trees have been wrapped but flow devices have been resisted. Dams were originally removed because they ruined things for the pretend salmon, and now they’re removed because the say they’re worried about the trails. All offers of help installing a flow device to control pond height have been soundly rebuffed.
Sherry Guzzi of the Sierra Wildlife Coalition wrote me the following this December:
I went down the day before, to check out parking and access, and found the beaver dam intact (photo, 12-11-13). When we met the next day the dam had been removed completely (12-12-13). I went back yesterday and the beaver was seen by several people as early as 3pm, and came back out and let me watch him/her for an hour between 4 and 5, while he/she rolled and carried rocks with his/her front paws to start to rebuild a small dam on a side channel. (The FS had destroyed both the main dam and a smaller one on the man-made channel that comes back into the creek from their display.)
Are we surprised that they waited to do this until the park was snowed in and closed for the season? Of course not. Are we surprised the they waited to do this until the river was iced and the beavers food source was frozen entirely? Sadly less so. Here’s what that little beaver was facing.
Sherry checked with team beaver about what to do. The ‘change from inside the system’ champions were less alarmed but said they would continue to pressure them. The ‘change from outside the system’ (Worth A Dam et al) were alarmed and recommended keeping an eye on the beaver and pushing public response in spring, since they seemed unlikely to do more until the thaw.
Yesterday Sherry sent me these. Not only does the beaver have a partner helping him. He has a family.
Here are some reasons why this is a very bad idea for their fall fish friends. To summarize: a shallow streams means ponds freeze solid and the fish you are celebrating, die.
I would consider these a very powerful set of arguments. Heart string-tugging photos to move public opinion and a full quiver of science to begin to change minds. Good work. Keep us posted. Thanks Sherry and team beaver!