Someone has finally got the beavers and water story right. And it’s about time.
LOS GATOS >> Californians are crossing their fingers for more rain after three punishing years of drought have left streams, rivers and wetland parched.
One animal has the potential to restore these dry landscapes.
Go ahead, guess which one. I’ll wait.
Isn’t this a fabulous start to an article? Before you do anything click on the link so they get to count hits for the report. It will convince them that this interests people. We met the reporter Samantha Clark before when she covered the beavers in San Jose for the campus paper. Now she has landed a gig with the Santa Crus Sentinel. Turns out she used to go to school with my neice so maybe osmosis has something to do with her remarkably being the first reporter in the state to get the water story right.
“This state has lost more of its wetlands than all other states, and beavers can rebuild those wetlands,” said Rick Lanman of the Institute for Historical Ecology in Los Altos. “Knowing that it is native should help guide restoration efforts.”
This article reads like a who’s who in beaver doxology honestly, just wait.
Beaver dams bestow benefits to the environment that we humans can’t easily copy. They turn land into a sponge for water. Their gnawing and nesting promotes richer soil and slows down water, improving imperiled fish habitat. Their dams raise water tables, nourishing shrubbery alongside streams that stabilize eroding banks and add habitat for birds and deer. They also help the endangered California Red-legged frog.
“There’s a growing interest in using beaver as a habitat restoration tool,” said Michael M. Pollock, an ecosystems analyst with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Seattle. “They create good wetland habitat much more cheaply than other restoration methods.”
Samantha did her homework, tracking down Rick, and Michael. They are busy men but the generally make time to talk about beavers, I’ve been very impressed.
“It would be great if we could recognize the benefit of the beaver and to resolve conflict nonlethally and manage them to continue receiving those benefits,” said Kate Lundquist, director of the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center’s Water Institute, a group that is drafting beaver policy recommendations for state Fish and Wildlife.
I am so happy to read an article that’s actually promoting beaver benefits in California! (And not complaining about methane emissions.) But there seems to be one voice missing. Rick, Michael, Kate, hmmm now who could it be?
Since beavers moved to the Alhambra Creek in downtown Martinez, the area has seen new species flourish. By moving mud, the beavers create a haven for bugs.
“Because we have an insect bloom, we have a bloom of all the different fish and animals up the food chain,” said Heidi Perryman, founder of the beaver advocacy group Worth a Dam and who led the effort to save a Martinez beaver family from extermination. “We’ve identified three new species of fish and seven species of bird. And we see more otter and mink than we ever saw before.”
Ohhh that’s who was missing! Someone whose learned how to live with beavers and seen it first hand! Not bad. Samantha doesn’t do enough to talk about HOW to live with beavers, but she nails WHY.
In San Jose, a beaver has taken refuge in the dry Guadalupe River. The critter’s dam outside a dripping storm drain created a tiny oasis.
“They can get by with very little,” Pollock said. “In a number of cases, they’ve built on streams that have run dry and because they have built the dams, water flows again.”
Because beavers are so good at recharging ground water, they can make streams flow when they would otherwise run dry such as during the summer months.
If I were a state facing drought for the past 3 three years, I’d be thinking about this article and these plucky rodents and re-examing my policies. Wouldn’t you?
Happy Solstice Everyone! Beavers get easier to see after today!