Archive for the ‘Friends of Martinez Beavers’ Category

Umwelt und Bieber

Posted by heidi08 On December - 4 - 2016Comments Off on Umwelt und Bieber

captureThis is a really fun article written by grad student Kathleen Onorevole for UNC-CH Marine Sciences Graduate Student Blog. She writes very intelligently about a dissertation being dramatically changed by some stubborn beaver activity in Huntley Meadows in VA. (Where our good friend Ann Cameron Siegal has been photographing for years.)

What this author doesn’t suspect is that dissertations were also changed by beaver activity for Dr. Glynnis Hood (who was trying to research drought when beaver ponds kept ruining her data), Dr. Suzanne Fouty (who had a nice hydrology study arranged which beavers ruined),  Dr. Michael Pollock (whose salmon research was ‘falsely’ inflated by beavers and recently for Dr. Arthur Gold who was just trying to research Nitrogen when beavers kept moving in and messing up his study.

I’m not an grad student, so I don’t know the fancy German word for it. I just say: beavers change things. It’s what they do.

Maybe Kathleen thinks this has never happened before. We could show her many times where smart researchers either hop on the beaver train, or get off the tracks. Right? This is a fun article and I plan on quoting her heavily! You should go read the whole thing, though. It’s well worth it.

When Animals Take Over (Restoration Projects)

beaver face ann

Beaver at Huntley meadows: Ann Siegal

Most productivity gurus say that when you hit a wall, you should switch tasks.  This is how I ended up reading a paper about beavers who managed to hijack a wetland restoration for their benefit.  So congratulations!  You’re in the right place to learn some fancy philosophy terms and think about wetlands from a whooole new perspective.

The wetland in question is Huntley Meadows Park, a Fairfax County Park in Alexandria, VA, just south of DC.  The 1500-acre park is surrounded by a busy metropolitan area and bordered by I-95, but you wouldn’t know it from the photos.  .  In the early 1990s, restoration plans began, prompted by a decrease in rare bird sightings coupled with the realization that intervention was necessary to maintain a functional wetland.  This is where the beavers come in.

This was news to me, I knew something about the history of Huntley Meadows and have even met the former beaver director there, who’s now the director of Laguna de Santa Rosa. But I didn’t know that a dissertation was done on HM by Dr. Gwendolin McCrea. And I didn’t know this term, which fascinates me:

 The second idea is umwelt, an animal’s view of the external world.  Umwelt strikes me as the framework that makes stories like Watership Down possible: animals are assumed to have narratives of sort as they respond to and navigate the world on their own terms, unaware of human motivations.

Suffice it to say that the beaver umwelt vision of the park was different than the park planners with their charts and research. They wanted a path to go here and the wetlands here, and you know what beavers wanted.

beaver back ann

Beaver from the back: Ann Siegal

Maybe the solution is to kill all the beavers?  Nope, park visitors like them and would not be happy.  Huntley Meadows also couldn’t outsource them to other local wetlands, who already had their own beaver communities.    This brought up a catch-22: the beavers had been partially responsible for people’s attraction to the park, but the wetland couldn’t persist with the beavers present.  The solution, it turned out, was to “manage beaver behavior without managing the beavers themselves.”  A team from Clemson University developed a pipe system that dispersed water flow, lessening the environmental stimulus that would normally prompt beavers to create dams.  As McCrea explains, the pipes accounted for the beavers’ umwelt– and exploited it.  One problem solved!  The beavers could continue to live in Huntley Meadows, building fewer dams and therefore not damning the wetland.

Yes, so they installed a flow device. And it altered the beaver effect enough that the park could exist and the beavers exist. I guess in Virginia it is worth a dissertation, but sheesh, it happens all the time. It even happened in Martinez.  That’s no reason to start using German words to describe it.

So humans were the power brokers in that scenario, but the tables were about to turn.  When planners were designing observation trails, they identified a key value of the dispositif: visitors loved watching the beavers putter around, meaning that the beavers had to be visible for those people to continue visiting.  This led to restoration elements designed just for the beavers, including a dam [SHE MEANS LODGE]  that encroached on the boardwalk and a stand of trees that was fenced on a rotating basis.  In McCrea’s words, the accommodations “enroll[ed] the beavers themselves as an element of the governing dispositif directed toward the creation of environmental subjects.”  Translation: the beavers were calling the shots now.

I have to say I like the idea of protecting a stand of trees on a rotating basis so that the public can see the chewing but the park can keep some trees.  I like the idea that people’s interest in beavers shaped public planning, and ahem, can we think of where else that happened?

The author is not totally sold on the idea of not killing all the beavers but she thinks it’s interesting. She ends with a reference to the dissertation.  Do you think we’re in the reference section? Bob Kobres is their anyway you can find me a copy?

McCrea, Gwendolin. 2016. Castor canadensis and urban wetland governance- Fairfax County, VA case study. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening 19: 306-314.

Final thoughts? The stated point of Huntley Meadows was to promote biodiversity. And the planners were worried that the beavers were going to ruin that. Ahem.




Things that shouldn’t be and things that should.

Posted by heidi08 On December - 2 - 2016Comments Off on Things that shouldn’t be and things that should.

Some things just shouldn’t happen. Really. And I say that as a woman with a lot of patience for ridiculous things. But some things just shouldn’t even exist. Like this, for instance.

Rogers Mayor pardons “Bart the Beaver”

Rogers Mayor Greg Hines pardoned “Bart the Beaver” in a comedic Facebook post Wednesday.

“Mayor Hines and Councilman Kendall met with Bart the Beaver tonight to talk about the trees at Lake Atalanta,” the post reads.

“Bart decided to turn away from his life of crime, and was given a full pardon. We wish you the best of luck, Bart! #RogersRocks

The post referenced a satiric Facebook page called “Save Bart the Beaver,” which has gone viral in the wake of an investigation at Lake Atlanta.

Tuesday, the city and police held a press conference saying someone used a hatchet to chop down trees around the lake.

But Wednesday, Ben Cline with the City of Rogers said experts came in and determined a beaver or multiple beavers could possibly be to blame instead.

“We had Arkansas Game and Fish come down here and take a look, and they found some more evidence there might possibly be some beavers down here at Lake Atalanta.” The city said it’s not ruling out vandalism just yet.

The city planted thousands of trees in the park, so the cost was relatively low because they bought in bulk. But it could still cost thousands of dollars to replace those trees, White said.

Lake Atalanta was closed for a year of renovations. It was reopened with a ribbon cutting celebration on October 30th.

If our mayor posed for this photo, Jon would be deciding whether to pay my bail. There’s no question about it, because I would have created a crime. Would you like to see the evidence their ‘experts’ can’t identify definitively? You know you would, so don’t even bother answering. Here’s the head-scratching crime that leaves all of Alabama confused about the cat burglar’s identity.

Gosh, I wonder what that could be? Apparently the hatchet-wielders took down several trees that same night. They obviously were trying to show off for each other.   Almost like a gang activity. Sheesh. Just so you know in advance, if holes ever show up in your trees Atalanta think woodpecker, and if all the leaves suddenly fall off, think AUTUMN.

Meanwhile the Mendenhall beavers will be at the Mendenhall library Wednesday night along with our old friends Bob Armstrong and Mary Willson. We’re so proud of the wonderful work he’s done with the beaver patrol. Our own Lory met Bob in Juneau and he showed her around.  If you can’t make it yourself you should really just look at the book on the left margin.  It remains my favorite collection of beaver photos and my screen saver to this very day.

Wildlife Wednesdays: beavers at Mendenhall

The Alaska Wildlife Alliance presents its speaker series, Wildlife Wednesdays, at the Mendenhall Valley Public Library from 7-8 p.m. on Dec. 7. The presentation “Beavers of the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area” will feature guest speakers Mary Willson, Bob Armstrong and Chuck Caldwell.

Wildlife Wednesdays are free and open to the public. Willson, a retired professor of ecology and columnist for the Empire, and Caldwell, Vice President of Juneau Trout Unlimited, both volunteer for Juneau’s “Beaver Patrol,” a group of naturalists and concerned citizens who have been working in the Dredge Creek and Dredge Lake area for about seven years. Armstrong is a photographer, author and retired fisheries biologist.


Beaver dam at Mendenhall glacier: Bob Armstrong

Giving to Beavers

Posted by heidi08 On November - 30 - 2016Comments Off on Giving to Beavers

Yesterday was giving Tuesday, and Worth A Dam received another donation from Jeanette Johnson’s PGE grant, which was awesome. Also in addition to listing various hospice, housing and rescue charities,  beavers were mentioned in the fine article describing all the local charities you can donate too in the upper parts of the state.

North State Giving Tuesday profiles: Know your local nonprofits for Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday is an opportunity for locals to show their support for the nonprofits in their area, and this year’s event is happening on Nov. 29.

Today, the Siskiyou Daily News is running descriptions of Siskiyou County’s nonprofits in their own words so you know what they are all about. Giving Tuesday profiles also ran in the Friday edition of the Daily News.

Scott River Watershed Council

Originally established in 1992, the Scott River Watershed Council became a nonprofit in 2011. We cooperatively seek solutions to enhance local resources and facilitate community collaboration on watershed issues.

SRWC provides leadership to support science-based restoration in Scott Valley. SRWC brings research, education and discussion on natural resource issues to the community, and implements restoration projects based on community and ecosystem needs.

“Where there are beavers, there is water,” says a local rancher. Water has never been more important. Using beavers and Beaver Dam Analogues (BDA) are some of the innovative restoration techniques that Scott River Watershed Council have been utilizing to try and bridge the competing needs for water of wildlife, fish and humans.

California’s first BDAs went in 2014 and ever since then, the interest in this type of restoration tool has been fierce. SRWC needs funds to continue to provide the science to move this technique through the onerous permitting and regulatory process. There has never been a more important time to support efforts, such as this, that will truly help mass areas such as California and beyond.

It is important that California, the West Coast and any region adjusting to climate change, to have tools that will help mitigate the effects, and hopefully ease the negative ramifications. Many, including SRWC, believe beavers and/or BDAs can contribute significant beneficial factors.

A BDA is a added to a stream to function like a beaver dam in the hopes that an actual beaver will be encouraged to try a real dam on site and take over the operatioin. Large trees and other snags help beavers get better footing in flashy streams that haven’t had beaver speed bumps for a century. We are happy not only that their wonderful organization might get financial support, but also that it gets publicity and talked about as a legitimate goal for restoring creeks.

The Power of Friendship

Posted by heidi08 On November - 23 - 2016Comments Off on The Power of Friendship

Jeanette is a grand-hearted PGE employee who saw  Jari Osborne’s Nature documentary on beavers and contacted me a few years back asking how to help. Since then she has been a regular volunteer at our festivals,  as you can see here pictured with her niece getting into  the spirit (Jeanette’s on the hats-with-tailsright). Even though she lives all the way in Auburn (the beaver killing capital of the state) she has family in Pinole and that meant she could be local enough to help out from time to time. It also meant she could attend my talk at SARSAS and get excited about the beaver/salmon connection.

img_1369Last year Jeanette worked on a prize wheel idea for the membership booth and was able to get the project accepted under the matching funds program for the company.  Which meant that yesterday donations to Worth A Dam arrived from both PGE and Jeanette, which is pretty dam wonderful when you think about it.

(Also kind of full-circle considering my father started work for the company as an oiler in Oakland a million years ago and worked his way up to a shift foreman in many river plants before retiring as general manager of operations from the  downtown San Francisco office. It was my father with whom I first saw the Martinez beavers, and who brought me to the Martinez plant once as a child: I remember we shared half a sandwich and some pea soup from his black lunchbox in the noisy powerplant before checking the screens to pull up the only eel I have ever seen. And it was my father who arranged for the newly emigrated Jon to have a job interview when no one else wanted to hire an  ‘alien’.)

So you can imagine how happy I was when Jeanette forwarded this from a foreman in Sacramento who knows of Jeanette’s love of beavers:


Ho ho ho! Since a power pole is treated with nasty chemicals to make it resistant to termites and other invaders, we’re hoping this beaver didn’t swallow at all as he sharpened his precious teeth. But I treasure this photo and its sender. Jeanette is a genuine beaver blessing.

And Dad, wherever you are, this one’s for you!


Another Origin Story…

Posted by heidi08 On November - 19 - 2016Comments Off on Another Origin Story…

I am hard at work on the newsletter for our tenth anniversary, and I spent most of yesterday writing the origin story of Worth A Dam. As nothing else seems to be happening in the beaver world at the moment, I thought you might enjoy it.

origin-storyIt was certainly unusual to have beavers in the middle of town, as our city suddenly did in 2007. Maybe if nothing else had happened that’s all it would have been; a passing interest that eventually –  passed.  But when the city announced that flat-tailed residents would have to be eliminated people started talking: to their neighbors, to each other, to their representatives, and to the media.

Eventually the city was forced to hold a meeting to discuss the beavers’ fate. There were too many people interested to fit into city hall and the forum was moved to the High School Auditorium. Some 200 people showed up – coming from uptown, downtown, and out-of-town. There were representatives from the Sierra Club, the Human Society, local news and a documentary filmmaker. The vast majority overwhelmingly demanded that the city solve the flooding risk without harming the beavers.

Faced with such vocal public support, the city council agreed to form a subcommittee to study the issue further. I was thrilled to be invited aboard the task force which consisted of council members, creek professionals, beaver supporters and concerned property owners. We had 90 days to address the pros and cons of possibly living with beavers in an urban stream. We quickly recommended hiring Skip Lisle to install a flow device that would prevent possible flooding.

The success of that first big meeting originally left me with euphoric hopes for a positive outcome. I was surprised to learn that even after we succeeded in persuading the city to hire Skip and even though his device worked entirely as promised, there was still uncertainty about the beavers fate. Addressing the real (and imagined) concerns in the subcommittee soon made me realize that the fight was a long way from over. It was Skip Lisle who initially suggested that a nonprofit might be necessary to advocate for the beavers and direct funding over time. After watching the acrimony of those meetings even after flooding was averted with his help, I could see he was right.

In choosing a name for the organization  I remember thinking that the struggle was too bitter for something benign like “Friends of Martinez Beavers” or “Wildlife Protectors”. It seemed the name needed to be something snappy with a little feisty backbone to get us thru the long struggle that lie ahead.

Thus “Worth A Dam” was born.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Colorado Callings

Posted by heidi08 On November - 3 - 2016Comments Off on Colorado Callings

You really should watch this. It was a piece of work to put together, I can promise. But I’m fairly cheered  with the result, and with the tech help from Powtoon who for some reason answer questions IMMEDIATELY and at night even if I’m using the free version. Thank you.

Now that you’re informed, maybe you’re looking to share what you know? How about a career in beaver education? Beaver Ponds in Colorado is looking for a new executive director.

bpJob Description:

Beaver Ponds – – is a young, 501c3 non-profit that began operations in October 2012.

Beaver Ponds mission is to provide environmental education that gives individuals of all ages the tools and knowledge to become better stewards of the earth. Its vision is to become a leading environmental education center inspiring action to protect and improve the environment.

Beaver Ponds serves individuals of all ages in its experiential field-classroom setting. A significant portion of Beaver Ponds’ initiatives are developing programs that will educate young people on how to be better stewards of the earth. Schools visit Beaver Ponds to enhance science lessons through hands-on experiences in ways that strive to meet Colorado State Education Standards.

Beaver Ponds focuses on 6 program areas:
1. Beaver Ecology
2. Watershed Ecology & Stewardship
3. Sustainable Agriculture, Greenhouses & Gardening
4. Medicinal & Native Plants
5. Renewable Energy Systems
6. Healthy Forest Management

That’s right. You could get PAID for doing what I do every day for free. Who knew? The job is is in Park Co Colorado between Fairway and Alma and the center is at a cool 10,200 feet elevation. Altitude sickness might be a issue. When I was in Cuzco, Peru (11,200) a million years ago  I was sick as a dog for a while. But hey, its for beavers. You can do it for beavers, right?

sherri worth a damOf course the added bonus is that Sherri Tippie is 90 minutes away!  Wouldn’t it be fun  to do donuts and coffee every saturday?

This morning I’m off to meet with the Junior High principal to talk about his new neighbors. Flashbacks to 7th grade might be an issue. But hey, its for beavers. I can do it for beavers. right?

More wonders from Cows and Fish

Posted by heidi08 On October - 29 - 2016Comments Off on More wonders from Cows and Fish

Time for more beaver wisdom from our very impressive friends at Cows and Fish in Alberta.captur1e

Beavers are friends of the environment

Beavers were promoted as friends of the environment and property owners during Beavers in Our Landscape workshop Oct. 12 in High Prairie.

Lesser Slave Watershed Council and Peace Country Beef and Forage Association co-hosted the event with presenters from Cows and Fish – Alberta Riparian Habitat Management Society.

“Livestock producers usually consider beavers as pests,” says Jen Allen, agri-environmental program co-ordinator of the beef and forage association.
“The workshop showed that we can work and live with beavers.”

Currently the critters seem to be rampant in the northern parts of Alberta.

“Beavers will always be prevalent here, so more people need to know about them better,” says Kaylyn Jackson, watershed co-ordinator for the water council.

Cows and Fish presenters urge property owners and livestock producers to be friends with beavers, that help sustain and enhance water supply and provide many benefits to the environment, habitat and people.

One of the most remarkable things about this Alberta organization is that it marches straight into the heart of the greatest possible beaver conflict and teaches “It is in your best interest to keep beavers on your land”. Even the name itself conveys how unafraid of conflict they are. They understand that you will never convince folks to work with beaver if they feel it is not in the interest of the two things held most dear to them: so Cows and Fish is a fearless name for this fearless organization.

captureEarlier this year they released their very impressive publication on beaver ecosystem services which you should go read again here and resolving conflicts. It happens to have some of the VERY BEST teaching illustrations I have ever seen on the subject, crafted by their brilliant artist  Elizabeth Saunders.capture

saunders capture2



And my personal favorite:

capture4Back to the article which does a less outstanding job at describing this:

“We encourage people to work together and have conversations about where beavers fit into the watersheds and landscapes and how we might expand our tolerance for them,” says Kerri O’Shaughnessy, riparian specialist.
“We want to give people a better understanding of beavers so we can look at ways of living with them and reducing the conflict.”

A pond leveler maintains the capacity of water that suits the landowner and the beaver.

Wrapping the trunks of large trees with wire mesh deters beavers from cutting them down.

Other tips are offered in the section Beaver Solutions in the booklet Beaver – Our Watershed Partner, published by Cows and Fish in 2016.

-For smaller areas, excluding beaver with a mesh fence is an option to protect valuable trees and shrubs in yards.
-Fences can protect young trees, often the most targeted age classes of woody vegetation by beavers and many other animals.
-Circular wire mesh extending upstream of a culvert may prevent beavers from damming the flow.
-The most effective deterrent is fencing coupled with moving the intake of water far upstream of the culvert with a pipe system.
-Greater success will occur by increasing the area blocked from beaver upstream of a culvert. Beaver may create a dam upstream but the culvert will remain unplugged.

Honestly, I love seeing any article with their name in it because I always know I’ll be delighted by what is said. I made sure to invite their director, Lorne Fitch, to the state of the beaver conference and he said he was very interested but didn’t think he could afford the flight. Sad face. We need to hear more from them. You do such great work, Cows and Fish!

Now, if only they could start a sister organization in Saskatchewan!