Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Odds N' Ends

Ok so I have not posted for a while but that does not mean I don't have a lot of stuff that I want to talk about. So I am going to use this post as a catch all for a whole slew of stuff that could easily be 3 or 4 posts.

First things first I have realized I need help in getting southland beaver up to the next level. I work two jobs, have another blog (antediluvian salad) that I like to update at least once a week, as well as you know, just life... so I am asking for help. If jump starting a nonprofit centered around beaver advocacy, protection, and reintroduction in southern/central California strikes your fancy please contact me @ duanen8@gmail.com. Or if you are just curious and want to brainstorm ideas that is fine as well. If you are good at organizing things/paperwork/bureaucracy those skills would be especially handy as they are not my strong suits.

I have been busy though prepping for the Martinez Beaver festival where I will have a booth. As you can see I have designed a new banner for the site, color pencils btw and it took several months (but relatively short sessions each time). I also have been sending emails concerning the prospects of beaver in California watersheds. I plastered various staff at the CA department of Fish and Wildlife; deer people, small game people, fish people, bird people, just about any department I could find got an email from yours truly. Below is a copy of what I wrote.

Hello my name is Duane Nash and I want to draw your attention to a recent paper published by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife titled The Historical Range of Beaver (Castor canadensis) in Coastal California: A Review of the Evidence by Lanman et. al. found online here
This thorough review of the distribution of beaver in California extends their accepted range to include coastal southern California, the Sierra, and all of Northern California. Evidence for beaver in southern California includes biological specimens (collected from Sespe River 1906), ethnographic evidence including native American place names, words for beaver, beaver artifacts and beaver ceremonial customs including Chumash, and historical accounts from European colonization. It is likely that much of the beaver population in California, especially southern California, was eradicated prior to the gold rush by fur trappers - especially through the use of steel traps.  

Reintroduction, protection, and expansion of existing beaver populations in southern California dating from translocations performed by the department of fish and game in the early 20th century offer a pragmatic tool to enhance watershed health. Beaver have been documented to raise local water tables through their damming, creating year round flows and pools in creeks that formerly went dry such as in Susie Creek, Nevada. The diversity and extent of riparian habitat that beaver provide create abundant habitat for riparian organisms as well as secondary benefits to all animals in arid climates due to more dependable and consistent water regimes. Notable endangered, threatened, and species of concern that beaver benefit in southern California watersheds include southern steelhead (beaver ponds creating ideal feeding habitats for young fish and refugia for oversummering ocean run adults), pacific lamprey, tidewater goby, unarmored three-spine stickleback, western pond turtle, red-legged frog, least bell’s vireo, and willow flycatcher. Additionally beaver habitat provides habitat for numerous other non-threatened but declining birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians and others. Finally the woody debris that beaver transport into a watershed kickstart detrital food chains ultimately creating more abundant invertebtrate communites which benefits species higher up on the food chain, including humans that eat fish.

Beaver benefits to humans include, besides the above mentioned restored natural habitats which serve as a cognitive restorative tool for humans, an ability to both replenish aquifers and buffer against floods. A series of beaver dams works as a veritable series of speed bumps on flowing water helping to slow and spread the sometimes torrential downpours in arid regions. Unlike human made dams, water diversions, and spreading grounds to recharge aquifers beavers perform the same function but allow ecological connectivity. Fish can pass through, around, or over dams during high flows. In especially high flows dams will blow out. Finally beaver offer added economic incentive by attracting nature lovers, fishers, and bird watchers to impoverished communities.

It is my hope that you consider beaver a useful, pragmatic, and necessary tool in watershed health for these and other reasons. I believe it would be most fortuitous and timely for your organization to team up with beaver and embrace the most important keystone species on the North American continent.

Duane Nash

 I think it covers the bases nicely, no? But for my efforts, I emailed over 50 members of CDFW and got '0' replies. A big nada. Zilch. Now I know people are busy and yada, yada how dare I consider publicly funded branches of the government to, you know, respond to the public. But come on now just maybe one reply? Anyways the web address to wildlife programs at CDFW is http://www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/email.html
and if a few souls out there happen to read this and send staff more emails about beaver in California well that would just make my day. Constant pressure, constantly applied. 

Also if you like my letter feel free to copy and post it if you feel inspired to start petitioning your local agencies about beaver.

On a positive note I did get a reply and a meeting from a local, very powerful environmental ally. Can't apply for funding yet as I don't have non-profit status but if I could get them as beaver allies it could prove very fruitful. Let's just say they are very opposed to man-made dams but not necessarily beaver made dams.

1 Billion Dollars for the L.A. River?!?

Maybe you did not know L.A. had a river, much less 1 billion dollars to help restore it. But never the less this might just happen. http://touch.latimes.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-80339241/

Personally I have mixed feelings about this. Much of the river, as you probably know, is channelized. Plans include widening parts of the river and amending recreational corridors along the river. Although there is a claim to return it to its 'wild state' this is doubtful because historically the L.A. River meandered all over the floodplain and I doubt that the Staples Center is going to be relocated for a properly meandering river. But it is encouraging that there is some type of energy building up for watershed health. But I would much rather have seen the money go to the Santa Clara River which is unchannelized and still has some of its native fish, unlike the L.A. river which has no native fish left and plenty of invasives. Oh yeah, invasive species and beaver are a recurring theme here. The L.A. River has no beaver as well - can't blame the beaver for this one now can we? BTW the angeleno chumash had a word for beaver and wore beaver pelts. Would be nice if a little bit of that 1 billion was used for a beaver feasibility study in the L.A. river...

But it is still over all great that this appears to be happening and a lot of people worked long and hard for this river. Even if 80% of the flow is treated effluent.

Heres a nice video of it: http://vimeo.com/27662703

Beaver in the Huffington Post!!!!

This is a good article and very positive towards beaver - and rightly negative towards cattle. As usual Heidi Perryman beat me to the comments section - that lady is on it!! But this is big exposure for beaver and it roundly criticizes the horrible water policies out west, especially when it come to cattle. I actually wrote about the cowbow mythos a while back on my other blog antediluvian salad, cowboys and dinosaurs. Essentially, contrary to what cattle ranchers would like you to believe, cattle are not desert animals nor did much of the land cattle are put on in the west ever support native bison. Where do cattle do best? Riverine forests, just the habitat their wild progenitor the auroch preferred. Georgia and Alabama are actually superior cattle range than Nevada and Texas!!

The Drought Rages On: But Does the Average Californian Know or Care About Where Their Water Comes From?

500$ fine for wasting water in California, or end up like the guy below.

Yep it is pretty hot out there, and pretty dry. I recently went down to check on the closest beaver population to me at the Santa Ynez River in Santa Barbara county. Let's just say it was so dry that the cottonwoods and willows were shedding their leaves like it was October. Not good. I don't know what happened to the beavers in the stretch of the river I go to. Did they flee to local golf ponds? Move up or down river? Let's hope they have the ecological flexibility to find a safe haven as I did not see any fresh beaver sign in an area usually brimming with beaver sign and the only pool of water was a decrepit pool full of trapped bull frog tadpoles. Anyways kind of depressing but I believe in just laying the ugly truth out there...

Yes, that is the most janky duck blind ever... and completely bone dry in an area with usually some water.

Dried up cattails in a beaver pond. Beaver can help keep areas wetter, but if the faucet at Cachuma reservoir is completely shut off and local farmers aggressively pump out every last trickle of groundwater,,, not much left for the wildlife.

To the left along the bank are a series of beaver bank burrows. Did not see any recent activity. Where do they go?

This is the freshest beaver sign I saw, a chewed stump. Hard to gage when it was cut... maybe a couple of weeks?

If you want to see what this river looks like during a water release when it is full of water check out this post: Beaver Safari on the Santa Ynez River

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  1. Duane love your blog and all your efforts. Your artful beaver is super fun to look at. Thanks for all you do. I am going to meet with the Idaho Fish and Game tomorrow. When I read that you sent your wonderful letter and got zero responses it saddened me to hear that. I feel fortunate that when I have squeaked I have gotten responses from the USFS and the Fish and Game here in Idaho. Hang in there, there are several of us who are rooting for you and more importantly the beaver! Paul Schmidtlein