The Plan to Make California Wet By Bringing Back Beavers
Ending the drought in the West will require rain—not too much rain—and smarter ways to collect and store that water. But something else that can keep things moist? Believe it or not: Beavers.
According to a story in Water Deeply, a group of ecologists have a plan to help repopulate the Central Coast of California with Castor canadensis, the large beavers which once roamed the state in great numbers. (Not to be confused with their ancestors, giant beavers that were seven feet long.) The idea is that beavers are nature’s hydrologists, engineering the way that water travels through the landscape:
“Beavers aren’t actually creating more water, but they are altering how it flows, which creates benefits through the ecosystem,” says Michael Pollock, an ecosystems analyst and beaver specialist at the National Marine Fisheries Service Northwest Science Center.
Beavers were nearly eradicated by humans because they were interfering with our logging and fishing industries. But that’s exactly why beavers need to return. Rivers and streams that have been diverted by humans are designed to remove water quickly from the watershed, destroying local habitats for animals and making it more difficult for an ecosystem to recover from drought. Beavers build infrastructure which help to slow the flow of water, letting it recharge local aquifers, and preventing erosion which helps keep plants alive.
I agree; Toby was probably talking with Brock Dolman (OAEC) since he lives nearby. I heard Brock at the 2015 State of The Beaver Conference near Roseburg OR, hosted by the Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribe, and he went deep into how beaver were de-emphasized in California despite historic accounts of how widely present they were in the state. Me, I made a cross-country road trip- my first since the 60's with time to put boots on the ground, and I saw some badly downcut streams. Including one in a nature reserve that had degraded badly since I last saw it in '73. But the streams I saw that were in really good shape (in nearby Iowa, and in W. Colorado) were full of beaver. We need to bring the beaver back! Especially if we want salmon back. I could go on at book length about this. Just let me leave it at this: beaver are permaculture experts!
All true as far as Castor canadensis is concerned. They are capable of repopulating quickly and expanding territory. Their internal point of reference is slope, water availability, sound (water), food source (tree species) and not road, golf course, housing development, corn field, which earned them the term "pest". Biggest take home lesson while working on different reintroduction projects (Mexican Wolf, River Otter, Peregrine Falcon) is whether or not and to what degree human monkeys can be re-educated to accept a new reference point for the beaver and its place in helping reduce drought impacts. Not having read the article in Water Deeply my guess is they would start in areas of low human population and see how it goes from there.
The idea of using beavers to restore watershed purity and quantity is going to run into several road blocks, which is unfortunate but understandable given the idiot mind set of most humans.
Humans tend to put their own wants before the earth mothers needs, always have and most likely always will.
I don't see the human creature wanting to change, and since they are the only creature that can change by wanting to, it makes the resistance to changing all the more tragic.
Beavers react to the sound of flowing water, this noise drives them to cut trees and build a dam, once a dam is built, the sound of running water signals that there is a leak and the beavers will run to fix the problem.
The beaver dam was and is necessary for restoration of wet lands drained by humans.
The wetland ecosystem is dependent upon beaver actions, they control the flow of draining rain waters, their dams create marsh conditions which are the true filters of water in the natural world.
Humans look at the beaver as a pest, mostly because they tend to build water retention areas where the human idiot mind set says they don't want water to be held, never mind that the water was there long before humans came to the area.
To quote POGO "We have met the enemy and he is us" which should be pared with "It is hard to remember the objective is to drain the swamp, when you are up to your ass in alligators".
Beavers do have a few draw backs but mostly they are only perceptions, the two exceptions are 1) they do create a major health issue if they are in a drinking water supply. and 2) they do fell trees, lots of trees, which can lead to erosion of soils.
Other than those two issues, there isn't much bad about beavers. They are good to eat, they have warm fur (still used for felt hats by the way).
People have learned to live with the black bear only because there are stiff penalties for shooting them.
I hope and hope for what you insinuate, that humans will wake up to the real truth, but in the last 5000 years, they have only gone deeper into sleep.
What humans call "progress" is more akin to "destruction of where they live", how intelligent is it to destroy that which gives you life?
People are educated about how to operate a motor vehicle, how many of these "educated" people do you see on the roads actually following that education?
These are a few of what they were educated to do while driving.
Eyes on the road, not the cell phone, the passenger beside them, or any other "distraction" which might cause them to loose control or drive into an accident.
15' for every ten miles per hour is the space supposed to be between cars on the freeway or any road.
Speed limits are there for the safety of all drivers and pedestrians.
Turn signals are for informing other drivers where you intend to maneuver to, not just turning from one road onto another, and you are supposed to activate it 100 feet before the maneuver.
Parking lights are not for use while driving, they are for when you are pulled off the road so others driving are aware of where you are parked. That is why they are called parking lights.
How many people driving do you see doing all these? They were educated to do so, but they fall far short of following that education.
It is unfortunate that humans reject any education that doesn't fit within their own selfish wants.
There are a number of sentient awake people, just not enough of them to convince the others to leave the idiot mentality behind and come to the sentient being world.
We, the sentient beings will continue to preach and show the others what really works for the benefit of people and the earth mother, but we should also realize that we fight a long up hill battle against the gravity of "normal human behavior".
Humans will one day wake up and say "OMG we have to save the planet because we have poisoned it, put to many of us on it, removed all the soil that grows food, we have used it to death and without the planet we will die" when that happens it will be to late.
Tyler, I too look for positive things going on with people. I do not however allow my hopes to delude my observations of either mother nature or human nature.
Sure it would be wonderful for all things concerned (and that means every living thing, animal, vegetable, planet, even mineral beings) if human nature were to make the jump to sentient being.
Unfortunately it appears that will be a long time coming.
We, those truly concerned and trying to make a real difference, can only show the others that our methods do work and are financially viable, since it is money that has the most effect on changing peoples mindset.
But this is not on the tract of this thread. This thread is about beavers.
Beavers are industrious and their activities are beneficial to many, many other organisms from the minute bacteria to the giants (animals and trees for example).
They create water features that gather soil runoff and they even sequester some carbon via the trees they use for their building and food.
The also work in a harmony, each working towards a common end goal.
To watch a family or families of beavers work is a wonder, each one works towards the end goal and if one can not handle a project, others pitch in to get the job done.
Once the work is done, they make time for play. I have watched beavers many times and every time it is with great joy and wonder at how efficient they are in every aspect of being a beaver.
Sorry, I am not remotely SW USA; and this is an old thread. With some learned people responding, and some deletions.
As far as I know, beavers are natively just in North America. So a question is; what happened in places where beaver were not present.
I've read some things about introducing beaver to southern South America; and I really have no clue as to whether is was successful, a disaster or something else.
The right to impound water is controlled by the province here. The watershed of the river which provides water to the city 1 mile north of me; has seen tremendous incision over the years. And I pointed out work on stream incision involving beaver dam analogues (mostly in Oregon).
I would like to have a source of water to water trees in May/June/July. Typically August is drought, which does a wonderful job of preparing trees for winter.
I am thinking a BDA (Beaver Dam Analogue) would be useful. The landscape in my mind isn't quite what the real landscape is. With a LOT of work, a person could probably build a 10 foot tall BDA (I've no idea on the distribution of dam heights for beaver dams). It would be much easier to build a 2-3 foot BDA. I have no idea what a real beaver dam in a similar topology would be.
Having read many papers out of (NOAA/Oregon?) on BDAs, it is possible that beavers could happen across a BDA and decide to make it home. And they apparently do a much better job at building such dams than us lowly humans.
Beavers like to eat bark. And in cutting down trees they will eat bark. But at some point the dam is finished; and the beaver needs some food. It's possible that the beaver has built up a large family; because the humans were so poor at building the dam. So they will have a much larger food demand than when they first moved in to take over the work of these shoddy humans.
Where I live is boreal forest with aspen as a major component; and so there are aspen roots all over. My thinking is that alder might be a better food for beavers; but if aspen is present they may not cut down alder. I don't necessarily want to get rid of aspen; just reduce it. I have a line of juglones (black walnut and butternut), in part to control the aspen root system. It's entirely possible I put these juglones in the wrong place.
Everywhere around me; are people who have no knowledge of beaver and hate beaver. I have little knowledge of beaver.
I think building a BDA (even if no beaver takes it over) is useful; as it provides some data to the local watershed people about stream incision. I think my little property might work for a family of beaver. I also think that almost none of my neighbors (within 1 mile) would like to hear that I have beavers on my property.
Very cool post. I love a good beaver! I never realized until I watched a program about Yellowstone Park, I believe on Nat Geo, how different animals completely shape our ecosystem and I don't want to get it wrong or start lying here but it had something to do with reintroduction of wolves to the territory. Of course, wolves like beavers, not as friends but ... and somehow this all works together to keep everything moving in a cyclical fashion. I feel like a bumbling idiot right now because I'm sure that you already know of the documentary of which I speak and this is your thing, but it was a definite eye-opener for me about how all of our ecological systems work together depending upon the variant life systems that are going on Within. I would say eat more Beaver about now but we need to save these little critters as they are vital to our North American eco-systems. Thank you for bringing awareness to this issue! Oh yeah, I live on the Beaver River in SW Pa.
I have been reading a book called Man and Wildlife in Arizona, it is a collection of records by the first American travelers through the state in the 1840s (prior to that it was mexico) The state was one of the last to lose its beaver population because Mexico prohibited American hunting. The descriptions of my state break my heart, they talk often of 3-4 foot high grass lands, marshes, abundant wildlife and trees. Our current state of desertification is a direct result of the lowering water table (loss of beavers who slow the water) and overgrazing. It took just 30 years to decimate the beaver population in Arizona!