The Best Dam Ecosystem Engineers
Beavers may be our most important partner in protecting and restoring western streams and watersheds. By building temporary dams on small streams, beavers slow down rainwater runoff and snowmelt. This replenishes groundwater and provides essential stream flows during the dry months in the late summer and fall to sustain year-round habitat for fish and wildlife, as well as assisting ranching and recreational interests.
Despite this important role, wildlife managers have a long history of treating beavers as a nuisance species and promoting beaver eradication. Slowly, attitudes toward beavers are changing, as evidenced by a growing number of river restoration projects that include human-built structures mimicking beaver activity, as well as reintroduction of beavers to some portions of their historic habitat. Expanding beaver habitat is good for our rivers and an essential component of building cost-effective, durable watershed resilience in a warming West.
The “beaver buzz” is growing, fueled by diverse voices of support and useful resources such as these:
- Ben Goldfarb’s book, Eager: The surprising, secret life of beavers and why they matter
- Sarah Koenigsberg’s independent documentary, The Beaver Believers
- Resources such as Living With Beavers to alleviate conflicts
- Workshops for ranchers on Cheap and Cheerful restoration with beavers
- On-the-ground examples of successful restoration, such as the Methow Beaver Project
- Martinez Beavers’ Learning activities aimed at teachers and community leaders
- Unanimously adopted resolution supporting beaver restoration in western watersheds at the National Wildlife Federation’s 2018 annual meeting
October 30, 2018