Everything’s coming up ‘beavers’

   Posted by heidi08 On September - 2 - 2014ADD COMMENTS

12. “Worth A Dam – Beaver Safari in Martinez” 6:00PM – 7:30PM Martinez

 Date: September 6, 2014

Worth A Dam – “Beaver Safari in Martinez” – 6:00PM – 7:30PM – Meet Heidi & Jon @ Martinez AmTrak Parking Lot, 601 Marina Vista Ave, Martinez

 Visit the active beaver family in Martinez with the guides who know them best. You will almost certainly see the beavers – as well as turtles, herons and maybe an otter or two. The gentle stroll through an urban creek is ADA accessible and some of the best beaver viewing in the State. Get ready for a dam good time.

So Tom Russert is helping Steve Dunsky coodinate this massive statewide event (of which one part is centered in Vallejo), and I thought what the heck? Why not include some beavers? So I dutifully pitched my idea and made sure Jon was off. The sign-up list languished for a number of days and I honestly thought no one would show. Now its FULL. I got an email from another couple who wanted to add this morning so get ready for a real beaver Safari!

CaptureIf I were the person in charge of the Wilderness Act Implementation, I would surely want as many beavers as possible working for me in the state of California. Wouldn’t you?

September is a PACKED beaver month, because we have the safari this Saturday, I give a talk at Sulpher Creek Nature Center in Hayward next Saturday, and Sunday we’re displaying at the Nature and Optics fair again at Cornerstone in Sonoma. Then we get a weekend off to get ready for Utah!

I spent the long weekend pulling together my presentations for the events so honestly if I open my mouth and anything but beaver information comes out today I’ll be very surprised.

Beavers win Badger-Spirit Award

   Posted by heidi08 On September - 1 - 2014ADD COMMENTS

2014 Badger Spirit awards are presented to:

Occidental Arts and Ecology Center and WATER Institute in Occidental, CA, for their work in conserving natural resources, sustainable agriculture, respect for the environment, and the WATER Institute’s national outreach to “Bring Back the Beaver” and restoring Coho Salmon to watersheds programs. More info: www.oaec.org, and oaec.org/water-institute.

Worth a Dam, Martinezbeavers.org, based in Martinez, CA, for conservation, outreach and educational programs on behalf of Beavers in the United States and stewardship and protection of the Martinez Beavers in Martinez, CA. More info: Martinezbeavers.org

sfbaywildlife.info, an innovative and contemporary internet resource, for San Francisco Bay Area information about wildlife, places, activities and resources. More info: sfbaywildlife.info

Many thanks to Susan and the Paula Lane Action Network for recognizing beavers with this years awards.  We even got mention in the local Press Democrat.

 Award for Bring Back the Beaver program

The group Worth a Dam which also works to educate the public about the value of beavers in restoration and conservation of natural resources was also recognized. The group holds an annual Beaver Festival in Martinez where beavers have become a tourist attraction as well as providing a habitat for other wildlife..

 The much maligned animal has proved its worth in preserving valuable salmon runs, and in water conservation. Bring Back the Beaver and Worth a Dam are working to educate the public and change state policies about the beaver which date back to 1942 and are founded on inaccurate data.

susanA beaver-maniac like me is thrilled to accept the honor. I first wrote Susan close to 8 years ago when she was a writer for Sonoma Press Blog and had written about our beavers. When I learned about her badger affinity I told her that through a weird series of coincidences my earliest fiercely loved toy had been an actual stuffed badger the neighbor had thrown over the fence. I had loved its soft fur and sharp claws, and imagined that its badger spirit had shaped my adult life, making me unwilling to give up on much of anything including the Martinez beavers.

Thank you PLAN for recognizing the badger spirit in us! And we look forward to badgering people about beavers for years to come!



Utah Beavers Beckon

   Posted by heidi08 On August - 31 - 20142 COMMENTS

Mary Obrien was the first beaver idol I ever had. It was 2009 when I read the article in High Country News that described her eloquently preaching the beaver gospel and advocating for their many benefits. I was starstruck to meet her in person at the State of the Beaver Conference in 2011 and thrilled when she came to our festival the following year. It was Mary who talked the documentary crew into including Martinez last year. And Mary who flew out to attend the  Salmonid Restoration Conference workshop on steelhead and beaver, coming to dinner at the house we rented in Santa Barbara with the other beaver wizards.

santa barbara dinner

Think I’m exaggerating about her importance? Here’s a description of Mary from Scientific American.

One five-star general in the campaign to save nature is Dr. Mary O’Brien, and she has a thing for beaver, the championing of which she has completely converted me to. In the first place, the quest for beaver has arguably had more impact on American history than the pursuit of any other single natural resource, its influence lasting well over 200 years. Sixty million or so beaver populated North America before 1600, and had a huge effect on the hydrology of the landscape – beaver dams stored water, slowed its flow and rate of evaporation, slowed erosion and supported a wealth of fish and bird species. In fact, the extermination of beaver from North America arguably marks the point at which our landscapes began to buckle and slide down the ruinous course we find them on now. Especially in the West, where water has always been an enormous issue and will become more important as climate change affects it, there is a real imperative to put beaver back on the waterways.

So when she asked me after my presentation at the conference whether I’d be willing to come to Utah and present at their festival this year if they payed my expenses I was very, very surprised. Like kinda if Santa asked you to help pick out your presents for next year, surprised. The kind where you don’t really want to mention or think about it just in case it doesn’t happen. Mary’s a busy woman and has five million things to do at any given moment, so I thought she might change her mind or forget about it.


She didn’t forget. She wrote me the week of our beaver festival and said “Are you coming?” So on the last weekend of September we are officially flying to Cedar City on Friday and getting picked up by her students to stay at a hotel in St. George where the festival is. Saturday morning we go to the event where I will present twice in an auditorium at the Nature Center on our urban beavers, and generally enjoy the day. Sunday morning I’ll present to her students on the research we did for the historic prevalence papers. And Monday we fly home. She sent the almost completed poster yesterday which needed a time change, but I couldn’t wait to share so I patched it myself just to show you.

correcty poster

Remember, that there was no Utah Beaver Festival until there was a Martinez Beaver Festival. And there never would  have been a Martinez Festival if our city had conceded gracefully and said “OK you win, we’ll protect the beavers.”

I guess we should really thank them for being so encouragingly stubborn?

And as for Utah, home of the first beaver relocation plan to restore upper watersheds, a statewide USFS beaver management plan, who brought in Skip Lisle, Sherri Tippie and Mike Callahan to teach the basics, and who still had time to commission the “Economic Services of Beaver” paper, Utah of the adorable beavers in towels photos after the famous Willard Bay Crude Oil spill – That Beehive state had better get ready.

Because I think Martinez is going to rock their world.


Not dead enough

   Posted by heidi08 On August - 30 - 2014ADD COMMENTS

Recently beaver friend RE did a public records act request for all the beaver depredation permits issued in the last 20 months. She received 254 permits which specified the authorized deaths of 954 beavers plus 131 unlimited permits. No one knows how many were actually killed, because obviously that’s not important enough to report, but that’s how many permission slips were given for their death.

A girl like me would think, that’s enough right? I mean that’s like 47 beavers a month not even counting the unlimited “all you can eat” permits. But that girl would be wrong. Because it turns out that this is only SOME of the permits that were available electronically. There were plenty that are only submitted by paper and to see those she’s just been told she needs to go in person to a dark file cabinet in Sacramento.

“There are essentially two systems, the paper system and the WIR system. Some of our staff use one, some use the other. I was under the impression that we’ve almost entirely switched to electronic, but that does not appear to be the case.”

RE will be allowed to scan or copy them if she brings her own equipment. But there’s no indication they’ll be categorized by species let alone by year. She has to prearrange the date at their convenience and I’m sure they’re hoping that she just goes away. I’m reminded of the precious opening paragraphs of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

 “But Mr Dent, the plans have been available in the local planning office for the last nine months.”

 ”Oh yes, well as soon as I heard I went straight round to see them, yesterday afternoon. You hadn’t exactly gone out of your way to call attention to them, had you? I mean, like actually telling anybody or anything.”

 ”But the plans were on display …”

 ”On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”

 ”That’s the display department.”

 ”With a flashlight.”

 ”Ah, well the lights had probably gone.”

 ”So had the stairs.”

 ”But look, you found the notice didn’t you?”

 ”Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’.”

 (Ahhh Douglas Adams you were so brilliant.)

I’m thinking RE will need a research assistant or two.  Cheryl says she’s interested and willing which means she can bring her iPhone and do this:

At the other end of the spectrum Brock and Kate from the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center will be giving a beaver talk next week in Santa Rosa which I encourage you to attend.

Beavers to the Rescue

Partnering with the Beaver to Restore our Watershed and Recover Salmon

Learn about beavers, a vital part of our local ecosystems with Brock Dolman and Kate Lundquist of the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center at a free lecture on Friday, September 5th at Pepperwood. The lecture begins at 7pm, preceded by an open house and light refreshments starting at 6:30pm. No advance registration is required. For directions please visit www.pepperwoodpreserve.org.

Dolman and Lundquist will share the historical plight of this “keystone” species, which was once on the verge of extinction, as well as insights about its remarkable biology and many ecological benefits. Learn how beaver can help both urban and rural communities across California restore watersheds, recover endangered species such as salmon, and increase climate change resiliency. Dolman and Lundquist will share recent findings from their beaver research and explain how you can be a part of the Bring Back the Beaver campaign.

Hooray for Brock and Kate! And congratulations on spreading the beaver gospel in Santa Rosa! I never heard of Pepperwood before, and am very intrigued by its mission. Curious about the sentence “both urban and rural communities across California”. I wonder who they’re talking about when they say URBAN?

Well the attendees are in LUCK because when they’re super excited to hear about beavers on Friday, they can come on Saturday and see beavers in person!

12. “Worth A Dam – Beaver Safari in Martinez” 6:00PM – 7:30PM Martinez

 Visit the active beaver family in Martinez with the guides who know them best. You will almost certainly see the beavers – as well as turtles, herons and maybe an otter or two. The gentle stroll through an urban creek is ADA accessible and some of the best beaver viewing in the State. Get ready for a dam good time.

One last bit of beaver news is that I finished our grant for the “Keystone species children’s art Canvas” this week and went it off with our blessings.  I included a sheet to explain what a keystone species was and thought you’d like to see it.Keystone species

The beaver sun also rises

   Posted by heidi08 On August - 29 - 2014ADD COMMENTS

Former Martinez resident LB moved away to Beaverton 5 years ago. Last night she wrote me that she still reads the website every day and sent this column. Thanks LB! Beaverton NEEDS beaver supporters.

This undated photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows an Oregon spotted frog, which was listed Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014 as a threatened species. Once common across Oregon and Washington, the frog is only found in scattered and isolated wetlands amounting to 10 percent of its former range. (AP Photo/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Oregon spotted frog to be protected as threatened

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — Twenty-three years after it was first proposed for protection by the Endangered Species Act, the Oregon spotted frog is being listed as a threatened species.

 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to publish its decision on Friday in the Federal Register. It takes effect 30 days later.

 Once common from the Puget Sound in Washington through the Willamette Valley in Oregon down and into Northern California, the frog survives in scattered locations in about 10 percent of its former range, mostly east of the Cascades, the service said.

That’s sad for frogs, but what does  this have to do with beavers? Hmm can you guess?

Habitat for the frog has been lost to urban and agricultural development, livestock grazing, the removal of beavers and the encroachment of non-native grasses, the agency said. Non-native fish and bullfrogs have eaten them.

Restoration plans will focus on maintaining water levels in wetlands, putting beavers back into ecosystems, removing invasive grasses and removing non-native predators, Fish and Wildlife officials said.

And that’s just ONE reason why it’s smart to play for team beaver. There are many more. Take care of the beavers and lots of things will take care of themselves. Frogs and salmon and birds and water…

Oh and lest you despair, apparently the beaver spirit lives on in the shire. A prominent beaver defender wrote me yesterday after my gloomy column bemoaning DEFRAs unstoppable evil in Devon:

Hi Heidi – Its not over till the fat lady sings – no notes so far. We are fighting this as hard as we can with more people helping daily. The govt trappers have no idea how to capture them all and none of us are helping.

I don’t know, maybe you should help. Put on your best wellies and a field jumper tell them how much beavers like to roost in the lower tree branches or doorways.

6825195-large[1]English beavers face wipe-out for the second time at the hands of humans

Wildlife ‘control’ could mean the beaver is lost from the English landscape before it gets re-established. Beaver expert Derek Gow mourns its likely passing.

 As the beaver families on the River Otter snuggle together today in their cosy nests of shredded willow they cannot conceive that they are about to participate in a remarkable historic event.

At the beginning of the 21st century, in the time if the “greenest Government ever” their removal at the hand of Defra’s trappers will ensure that they become the first ever native English mammal to have been exterminated by humans twice.

 I should have known better to be hopeful about the broadly-attended public meeting in Devon. I should have realized that the fact that DEFRA didn’t bother to be there spoke volumes. This article does an amazing job of targeting their asymmetrical illogic point by point and concludes that in this instance facts and public opinion and economics don’t matter.


Children and senior citizens, students and business men stood up at the end of the presentations to state their wish to see the beavers remain. Letters of support from farmers who could not attend were read out by councillors.

 Many people cited their appeal as a tourist attraction, others pointed out the hypocrisy of our national position whereby we lecture others on the conservation of threatened species such as tigers or elephants while making no effort to restore our own depleted wildlife. At the end of the evening a show of hands was unanimous in its support for the retention of the beavers on the River Otter.

 Defra did not attend the event. On the same day their field staff were collecting from Scotland the traps they require to remove the Devon beavers. To date despite considerable media attention, representations to senior civil servants and ministers, national petitions which have attracted over 30,000 signatures and the clear will of the local community they have made no effort to attain or consider a balanced approach on this issue.

 Did you catch that?  While the citizens of Devon were bravely assembled to talk about beaver benefits and problem-solving, bright-eyed children and craggy old farmers and gray haired dears all coming together to talk about making Devon a better place, DEFRA in their infinite badger-killing wisdom was getting ready the beaver traps. The deceptions of a certain Grinch spring to mind.

And when Cindy Loo Hoo went to bed with her cup.
He went to the chimney and stuffed the tree up.

This makes even a battle-scared rodeo clown like me feel sad and hopeless. It’s hard to believe that Devon could do everything right, the  meeting, the science, the overseeing trust, the media, the farmers, the school children, the shop owners, and it doesn’t matter at all because DEFRA will do whatever the fuck it wants to do. No matter what.

Did mention this is depressing?

Pilgrimage to beaver Mecca

   Posted by heidi08 On August - 27 - 2014Comments Off

Grey Owl’s cabin sits on the shore of Ajawaan Lake in Prince Albert National Park, Saskatchewan. Photo: Mark Stachiew/Postmedia News

Following the trail of Grey Owl to Saskatchewan’s Prince Albert National Park

Far enough away to gain seclusion, yet within reach of those whose genuine interest prompts them to make the trip, Beaver Lodge extends a welcome to you if your heart is right.” – Grey Owl

I had long been fascinated by Archibald Belaney, the Englishman who escaped in the early 1900s to Canada where he sought a simpler life by taking on the First Nations identity of Grey Owl. He later became a world-famous author and speaker, urging us in his books and speeches to take care of our fragile environment.

Grey Owl chose this spot in Prince Albert National Park in Saskatchewan in 1931 to be secluded, but accessible. Most who visit today will hike the 20-kilometre trail to get there and sleep overnight in a nearby campground. We weren’t quite so adventurous, opting instead to cover most of the distance by boat with a guide from the Waskesiu Marina Adventure Centre, only having to hike a 3-kilometre trail there and back from the shore of Kingsmere Lake.

While it saves time to take a boat, you should consider the extra work needed for the 800-metre portage along Kingsmere River before you get to the lake. Fortunately, there is a railway track with a push cart that lets you move your boat that distance, but if you get to one end of the portage and the cart isn’t there, it means hiking to the other end and bringing it back. Needless to say, we had to fetch the cart each time which added another 3.2 kilometres of walking.

The cabin is known as Beaver Lodge for a reason. It sits right at the water’s edge and is actually built on top of a beaver lodge because Grey Owl shared his cabin with Rawhide and Jelly Roll, a pair of orphaned beavers he adopted when they were kits.

The interior of the cabin has few artifacts from Grey Owl’s life. There is an old bed, a table with a guest book and some tobacco offerings. Nearby is a stack of commemorative postcards that can only be found here, intended as one-of-a-kind souvenirs for visitors to bring home.

A short distance up the hill from Beaver Lodge is another cabin that was built one year later for Grey Owl’s wife Anahareo and their daughter Shirley Dawn. It was built because they tired of the nocturnal coming-and-going of the beavers in their house. It was also a place where visitors could stay. Because of his fame, Grey Owl would host hundreds of visitors every year.

A short walk away from the cabins is Grey Owl’s grave and the graves of his wife and daughter. I paused for a few moments to pay my respects and left a pebble on his headstone to mark my visit.

The spirit of Grey Owl lives on today in the men and women eager to share the beauty and wonder of Prince Albert National Park.

I, for one,  know quite a few people in whom the spirit of Grey Owl lives on. Don’t you?