Archive for the ‘Friends of Martinez Beavers’ Category

Fascine party!

Posted by heidi08 On November - 21 - 2015Comments Off on Fascine party!

restoring the creekWorth A Dam got a grand lesson on urban creek stewardship yesterday, from the woman who literally wrote the book on the subject (New books coming out in January). Ann Riley of the SF Waterboard came out for a workshop and planting with some interns from the Watershed Steward Program of the California Conservation Core, and many friends who wanted to learn her techniques. Our eager city engineer showed up as well, and Worth A Dam was there with boots (er, sandals in Jon’s case) on the ground to make it all happen. Check out the grand photos by Ron Bruno.making fascines First off they took a field trip of the standing willow by the corp yard, then did many cuttings of the nearly dormant trees, then fastened the bundles into “FASCINES” that they planted into trenches around and above the beaver habitat. Meanwhile Jon got Cottonwood stakes from a friendly stand on pacheco and they pounded them into the moist soil. trenchThere were nearly 20 helpers in all, and the major work was done by midday, when Riley was headed to lunch with local Flood Control . Theoretically the bank should be stabilized and covered with new growth by March, because things will be dormant and rooting undergound as they should be for a while. It was a good feeling day, and everyone was cheerful and excited about the project. Here’s what it should look like when it grows. Wouldn’t that be tempting if you were a beaver?

In lots of places, school groups are used to fashion the fascines. How would this day be if you were a second grader in Quebec? Never mind the French, this is easy to understand.

And the winner is – UTAH!

Posted by heidi08 On October - 13 - 2015Comments Off on And the winner is – UTAH!

The states of Washington and Utah have been running a neck-to-neck competition to be the beaver Mecca of America. They are both brilliant at beaver management in so many ways and light years ahead of their border cousins. For a while it looked like Washington, (with heavy weights like NOAA, Michael Pollock and the Methow project) was in the lead. But now Utah, (with beaver Shamans Mary Obrien of GLCT and Joe Wheaton at Utah State), has just made a giant leap forward.

Utah: Even their WALMARTs are smarter than yours.

Project helps protect Logan beavers, reduce threat of flooding

LOGAN — A project in Logan may be a lifesaver for beavers, and it may help Wal-Mart get along better with its furry neighbors. Workers have installed a system intended to reduce the threat of flooding caused by beaver dams.

“Killing beaver just didn’t seem like the right way to go,” said Dan Miller, chairman of the Bear River Watershed Council. “There was a better solution, and this is definitely it.”

The new system regulates the level of a beaver pond, functioning more or less like the overflow drain on a bathtub. It prevents the beaver pond from rising too high and overfilling.

Beaver dams store water in the springtime and allow it to trickle downstream in the late summer, a process that benefits downstream water users, he said.
“They help with the water quality,” Bouwes said, “by capturing a lot of sediment and other materials that we would have to clean up otherwise.”

Okay, Utah has some crazy ideas about women and minority rights and wants to sell back their national parks, but HEY they install flow devices at WALMART, so watch out America. This is what visionary looks like! Now Walmart needs to donate a field cam and install it on sight so they can see some photos of the wild creatures they just saved. (Better photos = more media = and more advertising of their good deed.)

I would send a thank you note to the good folk who approved this project, but I can’t find any details about management. Guess we better send our thanks to Nick Bouwes at Utah State and Dan Miller of the massive Bear River Watershed group. That should keep us busy.


Forestry Beavers

Posted by heidi08 On October - 11 - 2015Comments Off on Forestry Beavers

Our Georgia-based beaver friend BK sends this 1906 forestry text on beavers. He is looking for reference on the amount of water stored by beaver ponds, so send anything you have my way. I love reading this lost wisdom. It has so much hope for the future and a mistaken faith in our recognition of doing the right thing. Here’s the awesome conclusion:

How touching the author wants a closed season for beaver. Ahem. Let me be the first to tell you that’s never going to happen. Actually, I don’t worry about beaver trappers. I worry about depredation. At least recreational trappers have to  COUNT the number of beaver they kill. Property owners and cities don’t.

All I want is for the number of inconvenient beavers killed every year to be COUNTED. Is that so much to ask?

In honor of the flow device removal and our 3000th post, I finally got around to making a video about this year’s kits. It was hard work editing through all that weeping. But I’m glad the monument to their brief lives is done. A few folks sent comments and were willing to share them, so I thought I’d pass them along. If you want to add some email me or post them directly to the website. I guess the lesson of all this is that loving anything means you let yourself risk the pain of losing it. I’m sure there’s wisdom to be gleaned from that somewhere.

At the moment I pretty much just think it sucks.

Oohh, just beautiful, Heidi. Can’t speak, can’t type. Wishing you lots of pennies from heaven. Oooh those sweet babies…If I could wave a magic wand and bring them back, I would. I don’t know how you have made it through, Heidi, but that is the sweetest little film ever. RE of Napa

Thank you so much for making this for all of us. Many tears fell but I agree it needed to be done. LB Martinez

Yes, thank you, too ….you do such great work for both man & animals! Tears tears tears. CB Martinez

That was very beautiful, Heidi. Thank you. Please, let’s hope Alhambra Creek becomes home to more beaver families in the near future. Once this drought is over and the creek flows normally again, the willows grow, and the tullies flourish, and the homeless have homes, we will sit together again at the creek side and marvel at how magnificent the beavers are. I know this isn’t the end, even though it feels like it might be for awhile. Because of your initial interest and attention those many years ago on our wonderful Martinez beaver family; and subsequently, your stewardship and your educating the world about them, more beavers everywhere are being appreciated and saved. I’m so sad as I know you and Jon are too. But what a beautiful tribute you made to them, and for us all. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Know I love and appreciate you and Jon, and all your hard work for our Martinez beavers, and beavers everywhere. I will educate anyone, anywhere about the beaver, and their incredible engineering for the environment. Yes, they are definitely Worth A Dam, and much much more.
JO Martinez

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

Posted by heidi08 On September - 24 - 2015Comments Off on Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

Oh sure. No beaver news for 5 whole days and then an EXPLOSION of stories to share. Well, we have to start with this, because I told you it was coming 10 days ago.

Beaver: Back to the Future

Beaver, whose dams help slow the flow of water, play a key role in the health of our forests. They create wetlands, reduce the force of floods, and expand riparian habitat for wildlife. In our new 13-minute video “Beaver: Back to the Future,” four Forest Service employees and a retired Regional Forester eloquently and enthusiastically praise the power of beaver to beneficially restore and manage national forest water flows in the face of climate change.

Beaver: Back to the Future from Grand Canyon Trust on Vimeo.

Wasn’t that awesome? Everyone did such a fantastic and compelling job. And Trout Unlimited funded. How long must we wait for it to catch on. The smartest beaver folk in three states. Now only 47 more to go!


Maybe Coca cola can help. Beaver: the paws that refreshes!

Coca-Cola Leaves It to Beavers to Fight the Drought

What do Coca-Cola and beavers have in common? It sounds like the setup of a bad joke, but the fates of beavers and bottlers look increasingly intertwined. Coke is funding the deployment of beavers in the United States to build dams and create ponds that can replenish water supplies for local ecosystems and ultimately, people.

Coke’s deployment of engineering rodents has a similar goal: getting water into the ground. Before Europeans’ arrival on the continent, beavers lived in nearly every headwaters stream in North America, and they shaped the continent.

“They were everywhere and having a huge impact on the landscape and the hydrology,” said Frances Backhouse, a Victoria, British Columbia–based author whose book, Once They Were Hats, about the history and environmental role of beavers, will be published Oct. 1.

“Beavers mean higher water tables and water on the landscape throughout the dry seasons as well wet seasons,” she said. They are, according to Backhouse, “the only animal in the world that can rival us in terms of engineering the landscape.”

The funding repairs stream crossings and restores streams damaged by wildfires in California, New Mexico, Illinois, Michigan, and Colorado. It is helping to pay for the beaver project, which seeks to boost water retention in the Upper Methow River watershed in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in Washington state.

Natural solutions like deploying the beavers are a good value, said Radtke. An earlier project in the Sierra Nevada Mountains used heavy equipment to install a series of plugs to contain water so it could seep into sediment. “It was fantastic,” he said. “It was working. But it cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

The Upper Methow Beaver Project, a joint effort of five organizations, accomplishes the same thing for less. Coke’s investment in the project in 2014 was around $40,000. Total project cost for that year was $271,000.

“It turns out that beavers work cheaper than big, heavy, yellow equipment,” said Radtke.

Ya think?

Alright, credit where credit’s due, relocating beavers to save water is MUCH better than killing them, and kudos to Coke for having the sense to fund a winner. But really the ideal place for beavers to be improving water is everywhere there is water and people to drink it, and I’ll be happiest when they are allowed to relocate themselves.


Smiling beaver kit by Cheryl Reynolds

Update on the little munchkin at Lindsay who survived the night and was looking healthier today. He’ll be ready to leave in a couple days, and if they can’t locate his family he’ll go to our friends at Sonoma Wildlife Rescue to mature and learn to be a beaver. This morning Cheryl and Kelly went out looking for his family and may have seen another kit and some chewed tulles. Fingers crossed he’ll be reunited with loved ones soon.


Posted by heidi08 On September - 22 - 2015Comments Off on Papyrus

This weekend someone commented on our logo with the perfect sentence “Oh because beavers are the KEY to the creek, right?” And it got me remembering how it all came together.

Once upon a time, many years ago, Worth A Dam needed a logo. I fiddled with logo picsome primitive images and asked around the best I could and got the suggestion to look for a volunteer on Craig’s list. I was told to advertise for a “Free gig” and say what we needed.

The truly amazing thing is that I immediately received more than a dozen offers. I actually had to review applications for an unpaid job drawing a beaver logo. It was 2009 and the time the Martinez Beavers were bigger news than they are now. I reviewed cute graphics, manly graphics and gothum graphics. I got offers from the Southbay, the Northbay and San Francisco.

The woman that finally intrigued me was Kiriko Moth, a graphic artist in the city. She’s has gotten bigger and her website is amazing if you want to catch a peek. She had just finished some lovely illustrations for a book on bees that compelled me. We had a conversation about my ideas and she sketched a host of designs which I liked – including one with children’s faces. I wish I had the sample sheet she sent just to remember. But at the time I asked her to think about incorporating the key idea, and maybe a stream.

She came back with a stream dividing the beaver (in blue and reversed with the wide part at the top). I suggested we do uncolored and offered the idea of flipping it so it looks like you’re looking into the distance. Then we chose fonts to go around it. And Voila the logo was born. When mom died she was kind enough to notch the tail.

legacy_logo2lgOne thing she said as we were discussing fonts was to avoid papyrus. She said TOO many non profits used it already. I thought at the time that was an odd thing to say, because I happened to love papyrus. Maybe you do too. But now years later I have seen over and over that she was right. Here’s a little sample, but keep your eye out and you’ll find millions.

papyrusI have to ask myself what quality we all possess that draws us to this font? Even many of the logos that were professionally designed and avoided the danger of using the font actually chose fonts that look LIKE papyrus.

Apparently the advice NOT to use papyrus has to be sternly administered from lots of sources. It is all over google.

There’s a psychological paper there just waiting to be written.

Never send a city worker to do a beaver expert’s job…

Posted by heidi08 On August - 4 - 2015Comments Off on Never send a city worker to do a beaver expert’s job…


Northampton will install rocks to baffle beavers at Fitzgerald Lake

Hark back to 2013, when beavers dammed the area around the outlet pipe that sends water from the lake under the dam and into the Broad Brook. The lake rose about two feet that year, forcing the city to install a wire-mesh fence around the pipe, temporarily holding the beavers at bay.

 Ever industrious, the beavers eventually burrowed under the fence, clogging the system again and raising the level of the lake. Some of the trails along the shore were even submerged this year.

 Wow, Northampton MA is 20 minutes away from Mike Callahan. I can’t believe he installed a fence beavers burrowed under in 2 years, can you? Let’s use the search function on the website to see if it gives any clues. Here’s one from 2013:

“Once the new fence is in by the city’s contractor I’ll be installing a Flexible Pond Leveler through their fence.”

Ahhhh so it was a “I’ll-save-some-$$-by-doing-this-myself, how-hard-can-it-be” job.  Gosh and now you have to spend a grand lowering rocks into the lake to hold down the silly fence that you installed, because otherwise Mike’s excellent flow device will get plugged. Have you learned anything by this? Are you going to stick to the experts next time?

Mike said at the time that this lake was the site of the FIRST flex pipe he ever installed – in 1998. How’s that for a history lesson!

bob n janeOur dinner guests last night were Bob & Jane Kobres from Georgia. Here they are at the table with our awesome chef and FRO’s beautiful beaver watercolor in the background. He’s the retired librarian from UGA that always sends us beaver research and discretely points out egregious typos so that your reading experience will be slightly less marred. He and his wife made their first trip to California (first time ever) for the beaver festival. (No, really)

Every business they visited in Martinez they made a point of telling was stunned. And they just did a beaver presentation at the children’s program in their church. How awesome is that? At dinner we realized they are truly unique folks: Jane is the daughter of a white baptist deacon from Tennessee that voted for Obama twice.

(How small is that demographic?)

They had a great time watching Bob Rust put together the wattle beaver, and Bob filmed most of it so I hope we can get it on the website soon. They shared a similar knowledgeable quirkiness that I am starting to recognize in beaver lovers. (Myself included). It’s amazing that we have had three separate visits from Georgia in the past few years, and the Blue Heron Preserve in Atlanta is now talking about possibly doing a beaver festival. (Be still my heart!) They went to Muir Beach on their visit and boldly put their bare feet in the Pacific, as well strolling around Muir Woods and the John Muir house here in Martinez.

We’re just about finished with the final exchanges for the silent auction, meeting a lot of folk wednesday at the bridge, and everything is finally put away or tallied. I sent the followup receipts and paperwork for the grants yesterday, and am finally starting to feel done with everything. I got this fun photo from our bag piper yesterday, Dave Kwinter, who said he had a great time at the festival.

bvOf course I warned him to use caution when saying he enjoyed it, or else we will certainly ask him again!



The Sun Also Rises

Posted by heidi08 On July - 28 - 2015Comments Off on The Sun Also Rises

CaptureThis was what I had been anxiously waiting for. Turns out I was nervous for no reason at all. Thank you Sam Richards for writing something so kindly and thoughtful. I promise no money or beaver merchandise exchanged hands.  A beaver festival article will follow on Thursday. I’m posting the whole thing here and on my mother’s refrigerator, but please CLICK on the link so they know you read it okay?

‘Weekend project’ to help local beavers turns into labor of love for Martinez woman

By Sam Richards

MARTINEZ — Heidi Perryman had no idea her “weekend project” was going to last the better part of a decade — or have such wide impact.

But creating public awareness of the importance of beavers to the ecological health of the streams in which they live and championing the toothy rodents that have made Alhambra Creek an unlikely destination for environmentalists has become almost a second career for this 49-year-old child psychologist and lifelong Martinez resident.

 She takes pride in the degree to which she and those whom she has influenced have spread the message that beavers are good for the ecosystem. She also knows the work is far from done.

“It’s constantly surprising to me how successful we’ve been but also how much subtle backlash there continues to be,” said Perryman, who remains a driving force behind the local Beaver Festival, its eighth annual edition happening Saturday.

The festival has grown from a small gathering of 200 in 2008 (“We figured it would be bad to kill the beavers if we had just had a party for them!” Perryman said) to an event that drew more than 2,000 visitors last year to the small open parcel — called “Beaver Park” by some — adjacent to the creek, a stone’s throw from the Amtrak station.

My goodness, what a fantastic start to an article! Sam asked so many questions about me, the beavers and the community they inspired I didn’t know what to expect. I certainly didn’t expect this.  Honestly, this article is much nicer than I deserve. I was really just hoping it wouldn’t make people LESS likely to come to the festival.   (Although, I’ve heard a rumor that a certain Martinez cabal meets for breakfast every morning downtown to discuss city plans for the day. I would dearly love to be the fly on the wall when they see this in their morning paper.)

  Perryman said she was walking downtown in 2007 when she ran into a friend who told her beavers had recently migrated to Alhambra Creek. “I thought it was funny, and I came down to see them,” she said.

 Not so funny was learning the beavers were going to be killed, as downtown property owners feared flood damage caused or exacerbated by the rodents’ dams.

She then joined the Martinez City Council’s “beaver subcommittee,” diving into what had become an emotional, divisive debate.

“Heidi was less excitable than some of the people on the other side of that issue, which was a good thing,” said City Councilman Mark Ross, who favored researching the matter.

Perryman has been credited with leading the drive to research the impacts of urban beavers, both good and bad, on their surroundings.

Harriett Burt, a former Martinez councilwoman, initially wanted the beavers gone, fearing flood damage to nearby buildings. But she said the research done by Perryman and her fellow Worth a Dam beaver advocates turned up viable options for preserving the beavers when official sentiment was going the other direction.

“She was clear, competent, articulate, well-informed and thorough,” Burt said. “She did have to win me over, and she did.”

The Worth a Dam group, she added, forced the City Council to look at other solutions.

There are three things I’m proudest about in my work on the committee, keeping my temper (most of the time), convincing Igor Skaredoff and Mitch Avalon that beavers are good for creeks, and persuading Harriet Burt that Beavers could belong in Martinez. I’m so happy he talked to her and she was kind enough to give such a quote. Harriet was my vice principal in middle school and the mayor of Martinez when I got my last degree. She was the planning commission forever and welcomed us when we bought this old house downtown. This really means a lot coming from her.

While Perryman had to stand up to beaver opponents, she also had to get to know their advocates.

“She knows how to engage other people who are themselves involved with that issue and make them all part of the same coalition,” said Igor Skaredoff, who since 1990 has been a member of Friends of Alhambra Creek.

In an effort to coexist with the paddletail swimmers, the city employed a version of a flow device, called by its inventor Skip Lisle the “beaver deceiver.” It’s a plastic pipe that carries water under the beavers’ then-main dam between Escobar Street and Marina Vista. It ensures the water level behind the dam never rises too high and that the beavers can’t tell water is getting through, which could send them into a damming frenzy.

Perryman said that now, seven years after the “beaver deceiver” was installed, the beavers appear to have finally realized the deception. That’s probably the biggest reason their main dam is now several hundred feet farther downstream, adjacent to that small park near the train station.

“Seven years, I would say the ‘beaver deceiver’ was a success,” said Perryman.

There are no plans to move the pipe to the new dam, as any flooding there would only inundate an adjacent floodplain and not endanger buildings.

Oooh nice PS for the council, “don’t worry about the new dam, Everything will be fine”. Could there be a better fortune hidden inside this cookie?

Walking slowly one recent morning onto the footbridge, using a cane, Perryman looked out over a creek more alive than eight years ago, an ecosystem largely restored. More fish, plus muskrats, river otters and other species, come (and go) now almost certainly because of the beavers’ activity, Perryman said. They stir up the creek bed, exposing insects and other creatures, which attract the fish that eat them.

The fish, in turn, attract otters and mink, which also have been sighted. Even the largely vegetarian muskrats eat some of these critters. The beaver dams also help keep more water in the creek longer, lessening local effects of the drought on surrounding trees and plants.

But there’s more to do; on the Worth a Dam agenda is work to change California fish and game laws to allow relocation of beavers to where they would be a good ecological fit.

Perryman also wants to continue to be a resource to the other beaver advocacy groups; their numbers are growing, and such units from San Jose, Napa and Lake Tahoe are expected Saturday at the Martinez festival.

The festival and the beavers themselves have helped give Martinez a little publicity. There are bumper stickers and T-shirts touting “Mtz. Beavers,” and those who gather on that footbridge are a mix of locals and out-of-towners.

“It’s rare to find a beaver dam so close to a parking meter,” Ross said.

Hometown: Martinez
Claim to fame: Child psychologist who fought starting in 2008 to keep beavers in Alhambra Creek; lead organizer of Martinez’s annual Beaver Festival
Quote: “I thought I’d work a day, or a weekend, on helping the beavers. But it really sort of took off.”
When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Marina Vista and Alhambra Avenue, downtown Martinez
Cost: Free

HeidiWhat a wonderful article, Sam Richards. I am totally grateful AND relieved. The child in me is pretty proud, so I’m including this photo of young Heidi showing off my crafting talents with a “little house on the prairie inspired” corncob doll while camping. 

One thing that didn’t make it in was the fact that I gave a TON of credit to the people of Martinez who marched to that meeting and demanded to live with beavers. And to the beavers themselves, who oddly decided to live in a very public area where people could see and care about them.  Maybe he thought I was just being humble, but they really deserve the credit. Honestly, save this article for my eulogy. I am way prouder of the beavers than my dissertation. (The article says so exactly what I secretly wished it would that I am weirdly worried that something terrible will happen now.)

What the heck. This poem-alteration seems totally fitting this morning. (Apologies to Leigh Hunt.)

I saved beavers in our creek
Kept them safe from traps and trials
Whatever else I couldn’t do
They were spared the city’s wiles
Say I’m weary, say I’m sad
Atheist among believers
Say I’m getting old but add
Add that I saved beavers