Give it up for kbia in Missouri who kindly dedicated their nature minute yesterday to the importance of beavers! I did a quick through past reports and I don’t think we’ve EVER had good beaver news from the state, so this is the first. Enjoy!
We also appreciate the hard work of reader Rob Rich who recently attended the Water Supply Symposium in Washington state to do a poster session on beavers and teach attendees about why they can help. Check out his hard work. Click on the PDF for a larger view.
Saturday fun in frigid waters with dear friends Jakob Shockey and Pieter Theron installing a flow control device to stop those dang beavers from plugging a culvert and allowing them to enjoy their new home will we enjoy the benefits of an active beaver colony
And lets not forget about the hard work of your best friends Worth A Dam, who received word last week that the Martinez Beavers photographed by Suzi Eszterhas will be a feature story in Ranger Rick magazine in the May 2018 issue! That’s a national children’s magazine that will show how we lived with beavers and you have time now to order your children or grandchildren’s subscription before Christmas! On sale now for just 13.95 for a year of issues, how can you resist?
The devastating fires of October are still collecting their tolls. It seems like every day I learn about some new landmark that was destroyed or some new person that was left homeless. This weekend might have been the worst, when I found out that Marie Martinez, carinvore specialist at Safari West and our friend for years – who has made her way to the beaver festival on more than one occasion – actually lived in the now-flattened Coffey Park in Santa Rosa. This article describes the blessed creation of a GoFundMe campaign created for 11 staff members who lost their home.
Ten years ago today there was no Worth A Dam, no website, and no beaver community. There were only a bunch of citizens who thought it was a bad idea for their city to kill their beavers and showed up at a meeting to tell them so. This short clip of the UK documentary Beavers Las Vegas, produced by the independent film company Middle Child Productions, shows only the barest HINT of how many passionate and persuasive comments occurred. The clip I put together isn’t very long, but you should definitely watch all the way to the end to understand why it was so successful in changing the city council’s plan.
A handful of very passionate folks gathered at my home right before the meeting to discuss strategy. Former city council member Bill Wainwright brought port from the local city vineyard to share for courage, and gave us lots of advice about how to pitch our message persuasively. I spent the week handing out these stamped opinion cards and I’m sure hope the city got several.
That night, having never spoken at a public meeting before, and after barely being brave enough to call Sherri Tippie and ask for advice about relocation, I delivered the following comments:
I’m a lifelong resident of Martinez and a downtown homeowner. While I would much rather have the beavers relocated than killed, I feel the city has failed to capitalize on a remarkable opportunity and let us all down. In this case the DFG made some unique concessions and creative solutions, the Lindsay museum agreed to go above and beyond its calling, but the city of Martinez did neither.
Although it has been widely reported that the city “Tried to think of another way to manage flood risk” the evidence for this is not strong. The city Manager’s report does not even mention water-flow or leveling devices. In fact these techniques have been used successfully for years and are well researched and understood. Reports show a 93-100% satisfaction with them. There is other evidence of neglect: the hydrology report does not mention tides and describes the dam as a “concrete weir” which of course it is not. Finally, no report has looked at the likely environmental impact of removing the dam and the possible effect on new and returning species that depend on its waters: such as the famous baby otter, or the less famous but still endangered California pond turtle which has been in evidence.
If the city is determined to remove the beavers, they should be aware that successful relocation is not uncomplicated or well understood. Since the state of California does not routinely allow relocation, there are few trappers trained in its use. Hancock traps must be employed, and when misused can still result in harm or death. Snare traps can cause invisible internal injuries. Beavers have no internal temperature regulation and are there for highly vulnerable to hypothermia. Families must be caught and released together. I have spoken extensively with the nationally renowned expert in this area, Sherri Tippie, and have outlined her suggestions as well. I submit them along with reports on flow control for their review.
Many cities face these crises with technology, creativity and compassion. I wish Martinez was among them.
In the end it didn’t matter what I said. What mattered is what 50 people got up and said, and what 200 people applauded and cheered. The council sat frozen like four [Janet was in China, thank goodness] deer in headlights and we could tell we had all their attention. We knew the meeting was special while it was happening, getting more remarkable with every comment and cheer of solidarity. No one left early. And no one got tired. Nearly four hours sped by. To me it felt like a huge electrical charging station that filled me with unexpected energy for the road ahead. Remember, there was an offer on the table to ‘relocate’ the beavers, and I truly thought I might be the ONLY person to show up and disagree with that.
People sometimes assume that I somehow organized or ‘made’ that meeting. But they couldn’t be more wrong.
Yesterday was a strangely successful day that turned out well for beavers. After writing about the Mystic lake madness I wrote the acting director of the Custer Gallatan Forest Service and some city folks protesting the decision to sit on this problem for three months and then expose the beavers to slow death. I was written back fairly promptly by that acting director saying the army corps of engineers had told them there was a risk of a 500-year flood event for the town below if the dam washed out. He assured me they knew about flow devices and would talk about this for the future, but had to do this now. The beavers would be trapped, not left to starve, which was something.
I was grimly comforted by this news, and mollified that he wrote back at all which I did not expect. He also said that he was back at his regular job now in Vermont and another ranger was in charge – whom he cc’d on the message so we could be in touch. I still thought the beavers were done for, but I was glad that my letter had been responded to.
45 minutes later I received this:
Update on Mystic Lake project. Engineers are currently working on a mitigation device to keep water to tolerable level after lowering and keeping the beavers in the system. Long term solutions will be discussed at a later date. Thanks.
Chad Benson Deputy Forest Custer Gallatin National Forest
There must have been a lot of other public outcry besides mine. Maybe we’ll never know. I will say I am capable of writing a fairly decent letter, but am downright talented at finding the right email address to target even when folks work hard to hide it. Still, I can count on one hand the number of times something like this happens. Maybe it has something to do with Amy’s recent presentation on the topic and my reminding the ranger of her skills and the fact that she was trained by the man who solved our beaver problem a decade ago? Maybe someone chained themselves to a bulldozer or threatened to stop dating the mayor’s niece. Who knows how these things work?
I’m just happy it did!
To celebrate I started thinking about a festival design that would promote our new location and vaguely remembered a charming illustration by Elizabeth Saunders the artist who works with Cows and Fish. It was about beaver dispersal, but I thought it could easily be re-purposed to inspire Amelia on our brochure this year. Even as a starting place, I’m liking this a lot.
Today is full of blessings in every way! Louise Ramsay posted this on FB a very nice beaver program from radio 4. There are some irritating parts but stay patient because it gets very good. I especially find it kind of wonderful to hear how happily the reporter describes their return. Enjoy!
Not too long ago Rachel Hofman of the NWF magazine in Vermont contacted me about an event they were co-sponsoring with the Clark Fork Coalition in Montana about the benefits of beavers. She was working on a flyer to promote the event and wanted to use a few of Cheryl’s great photos to do so. The talk would be given on October 25th by Amy Chadwick, who is also a friend of ours.
It sounded like a fine cause, and it reminded me I hadn’t seen that particular photo in a while, so Cheryl gave consent and then we pretty much forgot about it because not long after our exchange the entire napa-sonoma valley erupted in flames and that held our attention for a while. Yesterday I was reminded of it by reader Rob Rich who sent me some great information they put out on beavers. It reminded me that I had forgotten to share it, so enjoy!
For CFC’s inaugural Beaver Month we chatted with Andrew Jakes, Regional Wildlife Biologist for National Wildlife Federation about the unsung bucktooth heroes of the watershed – the beaver.
Why are beavers considered ecosystem engineers?
Beavers aren’t just considered ecosystem engineers…beavers are THE quintessential ecosystem engineer! They change a landscape like no other species in the world, besides humans. They change the landscape to suit their needs, and when they do that, it turns out that they change a lot of other things too.
OK, so what else changes in the landscape when beavers are present and building dams?
So much! When beavers show up, a lot starts to change. Studies have shown that beaver dams change everything in the system; from soil to vegetation to water quality to wildlife. It’s hard to sum up in only a few sentences, but I’ll do my best to give you a summary…
First of all, beaver dams slow the flow of water. This means water is on the landscape for longer. This can cause the floodplain to expand, soil structure to change, and the water table to rise. All of this also means that riparian vegetation can thrive. This means extra foraging opportunities for beavers and other creatures, so more wildlife starts to frequent the area. It’s no secret that wetlands are beneficial to the ecosystem, and beavers are little wetland creators.
The bottom line of all this is that when a beaver dam shows up, we see an increase in biodiversity, which thereby means the ecosystem becomes more resilient.
You can read the rest of it the fine story here. The entire ‘beaver appreciation month’ concluded with the talk by Amy Chadwick at a local pub in Missoula on Thursday evening. Obviously convincing the land owners of Montana to coexist with beavers takes the best and the brightest, and Amy (who worked with Skip Lisle) is well up to the task.
During the month of October, the Clark Fork Coalition is putting a spotlight on the hard-working, fur-ball hero of the watershed – the beaver. Join the Clark Fork Coalition and Ecologist Amy Chadwick for an evening of natural history and cutting-edge restoration featuring beavers and beaver mimicry. Chadwick is an Ecologist at Great West Engineering and the chair of the Montana Beaver Workgroup. Amy has been working in stream and wetland ecosystem assessment and restoration in Montana for 20 years, but in recent years her work has focused primarily on beaver habitat restoration and improving natural water storage.
Amy will share facts of about beaver ecology, review how beaver act as ‘ecosystem engineers’ in western watersheds, and share the implications lost beaver habitats on our water budget. Chadwick will be joined by Andrew Jakes, Wildlife Biologist with the National Wildlife Federation for a discussion of beaver habitat recovery work underway in the Upper Clark Fork and a Q & A session.
Don’t you wish you were there listening to Amy’s talk? I met her at the Beaver Conference in 2013 and we have kept in touch over the years when beaver issues arose over the years. She worked with Skip installing flow devices in the area for a while and now carries on the work bravely on her own. It’s wonderful to see folks like Amy and the Clark Fork Coalition working in their own backyard to make way for beavers and teaching others about their benefit to the environment. I hope the beaver night was a resounding success and I hope NWF thinks of us first when they have a beaver event to promote in the future!