Archive for the ‘Friends of Martinez Beavers’ Category

Wolves, Words and Beavers

Posted by heidi08 On March - 15 - 2015Comments Off

If one more person sends me the film “How wolves change rivers” I may do something drastic. Local author Jennifer Viegas puts it all in perspective in her smart new article on Wolves and public opinion. Jennifer is a writer for the Discovery Channel and, as it happens, a long-time friend to the Martinez Beavers. Yesterday she sent a recent article where she managed to slip in some of the rich credit beavers deserve.

Wolf Attacks More Myth Than Reality

From fairy tales to phrases like “lone-wolf terrorist,” wolves are vilified in our culture, and yet a fact check finds that a person is more likely to be killed by lightning, ATVs, dogs, cows, and even elevators than by a wolf.

Nevertheless, the myth that wolves pose a major threat to people persists, and at a time when their future is uncertain. Wolves used to be abundant in the United States from coast to coast, but unregulated hunting and habitat loss dramatically reduced their numbers. In 1974, the gray wolf became officially protected by the Endangered Species Act, which rescued the carnivores from the brink of extinction.

Because the presence of wolves affects where grazing animals feed, trees and plants in valleys and gorges at Yellowstone where deer and elk previously had collected are now regenerating, according to the research. Smith and colleagues’ research is documented in the short film “How Wolves Change Rivers.” Songbirds and beavers are returning. Because beavers help to provide habitat for other animals — such as muskrats, ducks, fish, reptiles and amphibians — these animals also got an indirect boost from the reintroduction of wolves.

Ahhh thank you, Jennifer. It’s good to have beaver friends in widely read places. I’m full of compassion for the plight of the wolves, mind you. But they can’t get all the praise in this matter. If there weren’t beavers to restore those rivers the Yellowstone wolves are protecting, all that would happen when wolves threatened browsing elk is the occasional  dead elk. That wouldn’t make a very exciting film or a very rewarding research project, would it?

I heard from Jennifer last night because I sent her this article, which a friend from England sent in my direction. It’s a much richer read then we have time for, but it’s Sunday and honestly, this is the best possible day to go savor it in its entirety. You might want to get the book too. It’s that good. There are a few short sections I wanted to share, to whet your appetite.

Robert Macfarlane on rewilding our language of landscape

The same summer I was on Lewis, a new edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary was published. A sharp-eyed reader noticed that there had been a culling of words concerning nature. Under pressure, Oxford University Press revealed a list of the entries it no longer felt to be relevant to a modern-day childhood. The deletions included acorn, adder, ash, beech, bluebell, buttercup, catkin, conker, cowslip, cygnet, dandelion, fern, hazel, heather, heron, ivy, kingfisher, lark, mistletoe, nectar, newt, otter, pasture and willow. The words taking their places in the new edition included attachment, block-graph, blog, broadband, bullet-point, celebrity, chatroom, committee, cut-and-paste, MP3 player and voice-mail.

Eight years ago, in the coastal township of Shawbost on the Outer Hebridean island of Lewis, I was given an extraordinary document. It was entitled “Some Lewis Moorland Terms: A Peat Glossary”, and it listed Gaelic words and phrases for aspects of the tawny moorland that fills Lewis’s interior. Reading the glossary, I was amazed by the compressive elegance of its lexis, and its capacity for fine discrimination: a caochan, for instance, is “a slender moor-stream obscured by vegetation such that it is virtually hidden from sight”, while a feadan is “a small stream running from a moorland loch”, and a fèith is “a fine vein-like watercourse running through peat, often dry in the summer”. Other terms were striking for their visual poetry: rionnach maoim means “the shadows cast on the moorland by clouds moving across the sky on a bright and windy day”; èit refers to “the practice of placing quartz stones in streams so that they sparkle in moonlight and thereby attract salmon to them in the late summer and autumn”, and teine biorach is “the flame or will-o’-the-wisp that runs on top of heather when the moor burns during the summer”.

Even if you aren’t immediately enchanted remebering the caochan’s you have passed or wondering if Eit’s really attract salmon, I assume readers of this website will be outraged that the OED for children once removed acorn, otter, and kingfisher! It immediately makes me think of the beaver words we have lost over the years. How thick with experience of them we must have been at one time, and then how nearly fully we extincted them. The phrase ‘beavering away’ for example, was once as common as OMG,  and visible in every single historic paper I reviewed for our prevalence research.  I know I miss a word for the sound kits make. Mewing just doesn’t communicate how purposeful it is. And whining sounds to negative.

Hey, I have an idea. Let’s make up our own beaver lexicon.   We talk about them more than anyone has since the fur trade I’m sure. And I’ve written close to 3000 columns on the subject. Why not make up some words to describe what we’ve seen?

Beavers high and low

Posted by heidi08 On March - 8 - 2015Comments Off

Polish beavers scale new heights

 Poland’s sole high-mountain national park gets its first-ever beaver colony, the park rangers said on Tuesday. The beavers, which have so far limited themselves to scouring the foothills of the Tatra mountains, have scaled the slopes up to the level of 1,100 metres above sea level this winter.

 This marks the first time that rodent engineers have been spotted this high. “These are pioneer climbers,” among beavers, ranger Marcin Strączek-Helios is quoted as saying.

 The rangers are yet to see the beavers with the naked eye, but the effects of their presence have been obvious since October. Felled trees with trunk perimeter of 10-20 centimetres blocked the Palenica stream near the famous lake of Morskie Oko, creating a pool of water 1.5 metre deep and 10 metres wide.

 Two animals, thought to be international migrants from Slovakia, have been caught on camera. The exact size of the colony is yet to be determined.

Morskie-Oko-Poland-02

Tatra National Park boasts views like this, a high peak of 8100 ft, miles of rivers, waterfalls with oohs and ahhs from grateful tourists but is probably best known for its over 650 caves.Many of which are open to the public, including the world famous Demänovská Ice Cave and the breathtaking Demänovská Cave of Liberty.

All of which made me think about the entirely new idea of beavers in caves.

Think about it. Beavers aren’t very keen on eyesight, they live mostly in the dark anyway, have thick fur coats so they won’t mind the cold, and spending 3 months in a frozen lodge can’t be all that different from spending  a year in a cave. Of course I had to go looking to see if such a thing ever happened. And what do you think I found?

CaptureEureka! Not only does that make total sense and suggest our Polish friends might be thriving in caves, it also explains the ANCIENT mystery in my mind of how beavers can coexist with alligators, which being reptiles are cold blooded and need more sun than their dam-building neighbors.  You can read the rest of the Florida article here, but suffice it to say that the next explorers in those Polish caves shouldn’t be at all surprised if they see this:

b min caLast night we met Danielle from the Academy of Sciences down at the beaver dam. She is writing an article for their new longer web format and had talked to Michael Pollock earlier about beavers and salmon. She said she hadn’t been lucky looking for beavers in Yellowstone but her luck changed in Martinez. She was rewarded with a happy adult sighting and very surprised to find out that beavers were BIG. After she headed home to Oakland mom and kit popped out to say goodbye. A good beaver evening, and thank goodness day light savings is over and we can see them earlier.

A wrinkle in beaver-time

Posted by heidi08 On March - 3 - 2015Comments Off

CaptureThis weekend I was working on putting together my presentation for the Salmonid Restoration Conference in Santa Rosa and thought I’d try to find some photos of the big multi-million dollar creek fix done in 1999 that everyone said the beavers threatened. Considering the fact that the work is talked about all the time, and changed our creek-scape fairly dramatically, it’s surprising that there is not a single photo of it on the internet(s). You would think Martinez would be proud of this accomplishment?

While I was looking about I came across a website discussing some OTHER work done in our creek, which is often dramatically added to the price tag of how expensive the beavers were to Martinez. The work was done in 2008 but was posted by the engineering firm in 2012. Maybe they were waiting for the dust to settle or for everyone to forget what actually happened?

I certainly never will.

CaptureProject: Alhambra Creek Beaver Dam

In 2008, litigation was brought against the City of Martinez for damage to private properties caused by beavers living in Alhambra Creek (owned by the City). Cal Engineering & Geology reviewed the site conditions and met with the City’s attorney regarding the merits of the claim.

The litigation put the City in a politically difficult position since the beavers were not a protected species but were greatly supported by the politically active environmental community group called, “Worth a Dam-Martinez Beavers.org”.

rIn the interest of striking a balance between nature, public interest, the City’s liability, and private property, CE&G suggested use of a sheet pile wall to both support the private properties and to act as a barrier against beaver dens extending below private properties.

Based upon conversations with a beaver expert retained by the City and the City Attorney, the sheet pile wall concept was approved.

You can understand at once why this got my full attention. Right off the bat I’m curious why this article is titled the Alhambra Creek beaver dam since even by their own definition this work had nothing to do with the dam. It had to do with the [completely fallacious] argument that they were tunneling out from their lodge like coal miners and undermining the property beside the creek. It’s surprising to see our name (or at least our name as it might appear on the internet) used. But the really interesting statement is the one in red. Exactly what beaver expert did the city confer with to hatch the sheetpile idea?

You understand. there is a sequence problem here. Obviously the city attorney isn’t routinely involved with creek maintenance. I’m sure she’s busy with abutments and ordinance challenge. Neither she nor  any expert were part of the decision which was made in some secret back room, I’m sure. The city attorney got involved when we tried to challenge their willfully misguided decision in court and failed. The beaver  expert was hired as a result of our outcry in attempt to mollify public opinion.

Credit where credit is due – the city council hatched that horrific idea all by themselves (actually I heard from several sources that one of the few members no longer on the council came up with the idea in conjunction with the disgruntled party). This member later had an ex parte conversation with  someone on the subcommittee and that member later called me saying would be no big deal to open the lid of the lodge, gently tap some sheetpile through, and then close it back up. Like a can of beans.

That terrifying  phone call followed a closed door meeting on a Thursday night. The following Friday the action was proposed, we hired an attorney, and paid a geomorphologist to walk and assess the creek on Saturday. The following week Worth A Dam went to court and our request for a temporary restraining order was denied. If the whole thing wasn’t burned into my memory, it would be helpful to look at the blow by blow available on this website. Next wednesday the entire proposal was approved and retained and I was invited to participate on a citizen oversight committee that would have zero capacity for oversight of any kind. I declined and left the meeting in tears.

City Approves All Resolutions

Including the exemption from CEQA. Bids for the work open at 11 tomorrow. Sheet pile will be driven through the beavers lodge. Council responded to comments for citizen inclusion with an offer to set up an oversight committee including Worth A Dam, but then discussed it with the attorney and city engineer who advised that any oversight body could not make decisions, slow decisions or influence them in any way. I declined to participate under those conditions.

 Supporters were in tears at the meeting’s end, including myself. Gary Bogue offers his condolences and wisdom.

Ahh Gary, we miss you. Sniff.

Dear Readers:

In other words, the city invited beaver lovers to sit on an oversight committee … that had no oversight. That kind of says what this is all about, doesn’t it?

 The city now plans to charge ahead on their “emergency bank stabilization,” causing a MAJOR impact on the beavers’ environment and their home … and of course on the beavers themselves.

 I guess we’re going to find out how tough those little guys are, whether we (or they) like it or not.

P1070029That was easily the darkest hour in beavertown, maybe of my life because I felt so personally responsible for failing to avert the decision that I believed would kill them. But Gary was right, we did find out how tough our beavers were. Pretty dam tough is the answer. Every beaver survived and adapted pretty well to the intrusion.

The whole thing introduced an element of freedom to how politely constrained I needed to be in dealing with the city. Up until then, I felt my hands were tied by always feeling obligated to assume they meant well. Now I understand better whose interests they really serve. After the shock and heartbreak wore off, the clarity was truly liberating. With the benefit of hindsight I can look at my remarks and Gary’s remarks and think they probably had something to do with this creative narrative:

Additionally, the beaver expert, who monitored construction at all times and had the authority to stop work, was satisfied with the project.

P1070035I’m so glad that our website was able to put together enough information so that Cal Engineering would know intimately how to lie about in their post. We tried not to leave anything out. I’m rankled that they are offering this whole dangerous charade as an example of their environmental engineering. Although to be fair, I’m not mad at CE, they were just getting paid. I’m mad at the liars and schemers who used the excuse of the beavers as a way to turn a legal award from an old oil spill into a personal flood protection barrier for one property owner.

But that’s all blood under the bridge, now.

Funny thing, it turned out the only thing really being undermined in this whole process was my faith in the city. But no amount of sheetpile will repair that.

In the end, they won the battle. But beavers won the war.cooper crane

Message Delivery

Posted by heidi08 On February - 27 - 2015Comments Off

Indiana University researcher reports that isolated wetlands matter a great deal – just not the things that make and maintain them.

Isolated wetlands have significant impact on water quality

Geographically isolated wetlands play an outsized role in providing clean water and other environmental benefits even though they may lack the regulatory protections of other wetlands, according to an article by Indiana University researchers and colleagues.

 Given those benefits, the authors argue, decision-makers should assume that isolated wetlands are critical for protecting aquatic systems, and the burden of proof should be on those who argue on a case-by-case basis that individual wetlands need not be protected.

 ”Geographically isolated wetlands provide important benefits such as sediment and carbon retention, nutrient transformation and water-quality improvement, all of which are critical for maintaining water quality,” said lead author John M. Marton, assistant scientist at the IU Bloomington School of Public and Environmental Affairs. “We demonstrate that continued loss of these wetlands would likely cause serious harm to North American waters.”

 Yes it’s true, wetlands are really important, especially when they’re in unconnected areas that aren’t attached to other wetlands.  Our top notch researchers think they’re so important that people should be prevented from ripping out those wetlands. And the government should play a roll in making them.

We don’t have the foggiest idea of how those wetlands get there, but we know they’re important.

Yes, webs are important but spiders don’t matter at all, nests are invaluable but we aren’t sure what makes them. and eggs are vital but who cares about chickens?

grumpygirlslideshow

Oh alright, maybe you’re getting the football very close to the end zone and it’s up to some other researcher or environmental attorney to get it over the line. Certainly this lays a certain foundation. And I would know JUST where to look for argument if I were trying to save beaver in Indiana.

Citing research literature, the authors say geographically isolated wetlands are highly effective “biogeochemical reactors” that improve water quality. They often retain water longer than protected waters, such as streams and wetlands that are directly connected to navigable water. And they have a higher ratio of perimeter to area, allowing more opportunities for reactions to take place.

__________________________________________________________________

This morning a quick update from beaver friend Lisa Owens Viani, the founder of RATS, who guest posted this article on 10,000 birds. Apparently the raptor-killing fiends of the world have come up with the excellent idea to name their new rat poison “HAWK”, because you know, hawks kill rats too, get it?

22Hawk.22-2-400x280It takes a lot of nerve—or something that can’t be printed here—to name your rat poison after the animals that so effectively and efficiently control rodents but that are also being poisoned—as “non target” animals—by your product. The label on Motomco/Bell Lab’s rodenticide “Hawk” even sports a drawing of a hawk getting ready to pounce. But “Hawk”’s active ingredient, a deadly second-generation anticoagulant, bromadialone, has been implicated in the deaths of Red-tailed Hawks, Red-shouldered Hawks, Cooper’s Hawks, and other raptors: American Kestrels, Barn Owls, Golden Eagles, Great Horned Owls, and Turkey Vultures. These birds are being poisoned after eating rodents that have been poisoned by products like “Hawk.”

You can read the entire article here. I told Lisa not to worry because this was such a tone deaf marketing decision they could easily turn it to their advantage. Instead of writing outraged letters or presenting them with a cease and desist letter. send the most flowery thank you card you can find, and say how much you appreciate their help in  linking rat poison to hawks, reminding every single buyer who the real victims of their products are. That kind of branding is invaluable. It’s hard work doing it yourself and billboards are very expensive.

Ask when their similar products of OWL or BOBCAT will go on the market, and say you appreciate their help in this matter. If you thank them sincerely enough, I said, that label will disappear.

lisi

Great people do great things for beavers!

Posted by heidi08 On February - 10 - 2015Comments Off

 

Need something beavery to do tomorrow morning? There’s still time to sign up for Joe Wheaton’s webinar on Beavers and Climate Change. Offered in combination with the Grand Canyon Trust and Utah State University, you know I’ll be there and it will be a dam good time!

Beaver and Climate Change: Free Webinar

They are the West’s most savvy water engineers. Here on the Colorado Plateau, ground zero for climate change, we humans have a lot to learn from these furry creatures.

What Can Beaver Teach Us About Adapting to Climate Change and Building More Resilient Systems?

FREE WEBINAR February 11, 2015 10 -11 a.m. MST

 Utah State University fluvial geomorphologist Joe Wheaton studies rivers and the changes we humans – and beaver – bring to them. Joe and his colleagues observe, map, and document what happens when rivers are fortunate enough to have beaver, both here in the West and around the world.

 In this 1-hour webinar, Joe will share what he and others are learning from beaver, explain where and how their dams interact with climate change, and take your questions.

Go here to register, and pass it on!

Now it’s time for our awed thanks to our Martinez resident talent Amelia Hunter who has outdone herself yet again on the poster image for the 8th beaver festival. I don’t know  about you but that might be the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. Note mom’s tail. This is the first painted image of a beaver getting a tail ride on the entire internet. I’m expecting it to inspire a Canadian coin design next year.

 2015 oval

Original artwork by Amelia Hunter
New festival

Immitation is the Sincerest form of Flattery

Posted by heidi08 On February - 6 - 2015Comments Off

9008_638290099610159_4507292353550062419_nThe otter folk are having a welcome back party and silent auction. I know because one of their offerings will be a beaver safari proved by yours truly. They posted this announcement the other day, which was prepared for Barry Deutsch and Lori Wynn formerly of  the top notch SF design firm Deutsch Design Works. I loved the brilliant idea of using the silhouettes as negative space, but sadly no SF graphics firm was around to help.. So I sat down with my inadequate skills and tools and tried to see what I could accomplish.

Since I don’t have photo shop I have to get buy with three inadequate programs, with which I can only make one thing transparent, not both the figure and the ground. The finished product has more white than I wish, but it came out alright. Now I am totally addicted to this and can’t seem to stop myself. As you can see the possibilities are endless.

 bwetlandsBsalmonBstreams The inspiration for all this is the Otter event which promises to be great fun, attracting the very best sorts of people. You should really go. And when you do stop by and say thank you again!

Making beavers count

Posted by heidi08 On January - 25 - 20151 COMMENT

We’ve talked before about the hero from Pocatello that managed to get Audubon to provide a grant for a beaver count in the habitat in Idaho. Mike Settell is a friend of this  website and pulled off his own musical beaver festival last summer (the dam jam!). Now he’s in the news again, training volunteers for a snowy beaver count.

 Story

Locals Prepare for Beaver Count

 Watershed Guardians began training Saturday for their fourth annual Beaver Count.  The Beaver Count is a free winter event where teams snowshoe, ski or hike through various drainages in the Portneuf Watershed to count Beaver activity.

 KPVI News Six met with them on Saturday up at Mink Creek to learn more about their role in Beaver sustainability.  Members from the Watershed Guardians prepared lunch in a yurt for volunteers coming back from training for the 4th annual Beaver Count.

 The training was held at Mink Creek’s Nordic Center. 

While the volunteers trained, they learned about the Beaver’s role in a healthy watershed and the current state of the Beaver in Idaho.  Watershed Guardian volunteer Joan Bernt says training the volunteers is essential for the Beaver Count.

 “The other thing is, is we want to make sure that people realize what they are looking for when they are looking for an active beaver colony. Just because they see a dam, that doesn’t mean that’s an active live Beaver maintaining that dam,” says volunteer, Joan Bernt.

 The Beaver Count consists of teams surveying different zones in the area where they will be looking for Beaver activity such as fresh cuts where beaver have chewed on trees, Beaver tracks in the snow and Beaver dams and lodges.

Hooray for Mike and the Watershed Guardians! And congratulations for luring the good folks of Idaho into the snow to appreciate beavers! It’s wonderful to think of folks learning how to keep an eye on the beavers around them and hearing why they matter.  I espsecially love the part where the article emphasizes the event is FREE. It reminds me a little of Tom Sawyer or P.T. Barnum.

This way to the Egress.

Great job fanning the beaver flame, and I’m thrilled the reporter added this at the end.

Mike Settell says the data collected from the Beaver Count will be presented at ‘State of the Beaver’ conference in Canyonville Oregon in February.

I can’t wait! See you there, Mike! And good work reminding people why to care about beavers!

Now on to Beaver appreciation in New Hampshire where a trip in the snow reminds folks that beavers are under the ice.

A trip to beaver lodges

HOLDERNESS, N.H. —One of the benefits of all this rain and cold weather is that it has allowed us to do some ice skating and exploring on our local bogs and ponds in the region.

Recently, we went on a beaver lodge tour of Hawkens Pond in Center Harbor and Holderness and were able to admire up close these houses made of sticks and mud. At the very top of the lodge you could see the chimney of sorts. Rime ice was collecting, indicating something warm inside was exhaling into the atmosphere

Their presence is a good indicator of a healthy habitat. Beaver flowages are important habitat for many other species including great blue herons, osprey, kingfisher, mink, otter and muskrat.

For those of you keeping track at home, that’s beaver appreciation in Arizona, Idaho and New Hampshire in the past two days. Not to mention the usual defenders in Washington and New York. I’m thinking its past time we adopt Dean’s “50 State Strategy”.

stencilTime to congratulate my brilliant husband and beaver man-Friday who undertook the impossible task of cutting out a stencil so we could spray paint our keystone tails. My brain couldn’t even imagine the task of cutting away the shapes you wanted to remain but he boldly finished a design and knocked of 25 of these.

Just 125 more to go!

One of the final benefits of shining the beaver light so steadily and strong for so many years is that there is now an international army of folks keeping watch for beaver treasures around the world. Peter Smith of Kent England posted this find this morning, which I promise will make you smile. Enjoy!