Friday, July 16, 2021

How ecologists fixed a wildfire hazard with beavers

Place Land Trust land manager Elias Grant discusses the importance of beavers in
the ecosystem at Doty Ravine Preserve in Lincoln, Calif. (Sacramento Bee photo)
"Seven years ago, ecologists looking to restore a dried-out Placer County floodplain [near Sacramento] faced a choice: Spend at least $1 million bringing in heavy machines to revive habitat or try a new approach. They went for the second option, and turned to nature’s original flood manager to do the work — the beaver," Isabella Bloom reports for The Sacramento Bee. "The creek bed, altered by decades of agricultural use, had looked like a wildfire risk. It came back to life far faster than anticipated after the beavers began building dams that retained water longer."

The project cost about $58,000, mostly spent on preparing the site for the beavers. The project is "supported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, through its Partners for Fish and Wildlife program," Bloom reports. "Since 2014, it has worked with the Placer Land Trust to restore and enhance habitat for migratory birds, waterfowl, salmon and steelhead by unleashing the beavers, a keystone species."

Though FWS officials thought the project would take a decade, the beavers reconnected the stream to the floodplain in only three years. "It was insane, it was awesome," said Lynnette Batt, the conservation director of the Placer Land Trust, which owns and maintains the Doty Ravine Preserve. "It went from dry grassland. .. to totally revegetated, trees popping up, willows, wetland plants of all types, different meandering stream channels across about 60 acres of floodplain," she told Bloom.

There are probably dozens of smaller projects in the state employing the same approach as the method becomes more popular, Bloom reports.

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