Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Busy Beavers & Slow Water Movement are back in the News again

Leave it to Beavers (Full Documentary)
Stop the dams – Irrigate the oceans – Courtesy Steve Hunter
Leave it to Beaver ? No way, says Salt Lake County in the State of Utah
(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune)

Just when nature awareness and education movements finally after decades of long hard work actually get the average rural citizen interested and excited about Nature on their own perperties and how to better nuture and maintain  it, then the Authorities &/or Corporate entities under the guise of an eco-green cloak, later on say, "Nah, that's really not such a good idea after all." Here was a story that should have had a happy ending. This entire valley where a natural drainage of Big Willow Creek winds and meanders across numerous properties, everyone is on board with excitement. As you well know, many properties owners have traditionally at times dislike such natural obstacles which they perceive may impede what they had originally intended to use the property for. If that was the case here, then people later on changed their minds. This photo above and to the right is Kelly McAdams walking across a beaver dam in his back yard to remove a bucket that was caught on the top of the dam on Thursday, April 6, 2017. Salt Lake County officials are pressuring McAdams and his neighbors to remove the beaver dams from Big Willow Creek where the stream flows across their properties. They insist the dams have been there for years and should remain because they are natural and provide wetland habitat, but officials say they pose a flood hazard. When is the last time you heard of a group of property owners wanting to quietly get together on their own without the invite of a group of radical monkey-wrenching eco-activist groups to create and protect an ecological wetland area ???
Draper, Utah • Big Willow Creek bends and meanders behind Kelly McAdams' Draper home and her backyard steps down into an urban wildlife preserve.   
Thanks to a string of beaver dams, the creek pools into wetlands teaming with life. Ducks and geese nest on the banks lined with cattails; herons and pelicans visit to dine on the 18-inch carp and catfish. Neighborhood kids also fish the ponds.   
But where McAdams, his wife, Kris Burns, and neighbors on Dunning Court see an ecological sanctuary, Salt Lake County sees "unauthorized modifications to a countywide drainage facility."   
The county Division of Flood Control has ordered them to remove the dams or face a $25-a-day fine, even though federal wildlife officials say these dams enhance the water quality, hydraulics and riparian habitat of an impaired segment of Big Willow Creek. 
"The dams have been here for at least 20 years," said McAdams, who moved in five years ago. "It is unfair they are coming in and destroying the area when there are alternatives."   
Along with neighbor David Dustin, McAdams is fighting the county's dam-removal order, saying it misapplies the county's flood-control ordinance by ignoring the proven benefits beaver dams provide and ways to reduce their risks. 
But county officials say they have a legal obligation to keep waterways open and safe.  Should high water push the beavers' tangle of branches and creek debris downstream, the material could back up the creek onto someone else's property or obstruct culverts, and the county would be liable for the damage, according to Rick Graham, deputy county mayor for operations.   
"The waterways and channels need to be clear and run and serve their purposes. There is a balancing act," Rick Graham said. "The county has demonstrated many times it balances wildlife habitat on creeks and waterways as they run through the city."   
Graham has overruled McAdams' appeal, which is slated to go before an administrative law judge on April 26.  Generations of Westerners have battled beavers because their dam-building clogs irrigation ditches and backs water into inconvenient places. The federal Wildlife Services, the animal-killing arm of the Department of Agriculture, kills about 22,000 beavers a year and many more nuisance beavers are relocated by states.   
For land managers and ecologists, however, beavers are miracle workers when it comes to restoring damaged landscapes, and wildlife agencies encourage property owners to accommodate the animals whenever practical.  Beaver dams help control floods, slow water flows when they're high, connect water tables to floodplains and create wetlands and wildlife habitat, said conservation biologist Allison Jones.   
"You have all these ecosystem services that keep the entire stream corridor functioning as it should," said Jones, with the Wild Utah Project. "Many other municipalities across the county are starting to allow beavers back to perform this critical engineering service."   
McAdams, whose one-acre lot has s360 feet of creek frontage, agrees. Without the dams, the creek channel would narrow to about 2 feet and dry up in late summer, making it impossible for him to pump irrigation water when he needs it most.   
"They want to take this wetland and turn it into a trench," McAdams said. "I'm afraid I might end up in jail over this."  On one dam he installed a flexible 10-inch pipe — a device known as a "beaver deceiver" — allowing water to pass through and help equalize levels on either side.   
The county began raising concerns about the dams two years ago and homeowners above and below McAdams and Dustin have agreed to let the county pull them out by hand, according to Graham. He hopes to remove all Big Willow dams at the same time to minimize disturbance.
There are literally tonnes of practical application we can glean by observising nature regarding Beavers, Alluvial Floodplains, the meandering pattern of water courses like rivers, streams etc. I have two links at the bottom of this post which will illustrate what many non-scientists out there have accomplished with a passion for biomimicry to prove Nature's worth at inspiration as opposed the tradition view of nature being so badly designed that scientists have the answer for fixing the imaginary flaws. The links will be provided at the end of this post at the bottom. Now let's report on the importance of slow meandering water courses as opposed to the opposite proposed by Industrial Business who claim to be backed by ecological science.

Slow Water Movement ??? vrs Corporate  Monopoly for the Natural Resource ???
Image - Coca-Cola Company
"USFS Deputy Forest Supervisor Rachel Smith and Patrol Captain Alberto Ortega walk through the brush near the Big Tujunga watershed, a large cluster of the non-native, invasive plant species (Arundo Cane) behind them."

Back on April 22, 2017, I stumbled upon this article about Coca Cola Company's seemingly altruistic concern for Nature and their plans to eradicate the evil Arundo Giant Reed or Cane which is a plague of many Southern California riparian floodplain corridors. At first glance that seemed okay, because I dislike what both non-native invasive plants, Arundo and Tamarisk, have done to take over native riparian habitats throughout the entire west. However, I then watch a (Coca Cola Company video) titled, "Coca Cola and the US Forest Service Tackle Invasive Plants to Replenish Water," which is supposed to be about their honorable proposal to eradicate invasive water gulping plants to allow free flowing water supply to reach Los Angeles from the San Gabriel Mountains like the photograph you see they provide on the above right. Sounds like a noble cause until you watch the video where he explains this and you realize that other giant corporate entities besides Coca Cola like Nestle and others have had ambitious water schemes for years to create a drinking water supply monopoly and sell this same water back to the public by means of bottled water. The Coachella Valley's main newspaper, The Desert Sun, carried an article exposing all these schemes back in March 2015. The article was titled: 
Then there was another article on the 89.3 KPCC website titled:    (Can NestlĂ©, Coca Cola help enviros fight drought?) where the Center for Biological Diversity, sued the USFS over NestlĂ©'s bottled water permit, revealing that their increasing streamflow was a self-serving goal for their company. I'm not a real fan or cheerleader for the Center for Biological Diversity (whose sole purpose is mostly about sue & settle), but I do agree with this quote from the article:
"If the restoration project is about actually restoring habitat, I think that's a noble thing. If it's just to have greater water flow coming down from the Station Fire area, I'm not sure that that actually heals the wounds that have occurred in that landscape."
Then there was this little tidbit of collaboration collusion with a Mr. Roger C. Bales, a hydrologist tied to Industrial Agricultural irrigation business interests in the San Joaquin Valley and believe it or not The Nature Conservancy, which is another one of those environmental organizations who have caved into the corporate  business interests deands which in turn has greatly increased their funding and donations. They seemed to have sided with Bales' unproven ideological worldview here with regard the stream hydrological scheme on their own properties in the unscientific assumption that logging and thinning water hogging trees will magically make more volume of water appear in streams to fill reservoirs at lower elevations. UC Merced's Roger Bales' association with Industrial Agriculture in the Central Valley and even the Nature Conservancy association with the water bottling companies who have donated money to them makes a person take pause. Either way, these unholy alliances expose the modern day  environmental movement's hypocrisy for funding being masked behind a cloak of eco-green. And that's really sad because years ago I liked the work they did. But like other phony so-called ecology non-profits, I've pulled away from them. This is yet another one of those lying, "necessary evil for the greater good" justification schemes. Just so that folks know and understand something about these tree thinning/removal schemes mention by Roger Bales and the Nature Conservancy, it has been totally debunked and found to be untrue. California's four or five year drought along with the bark beetle loss of over 100 millions trees has not produced more water in streams or rivers to fill downstream reservoirs.
BREAKING NEWS: Apparently Trees don't really Gulp, Guzzle & Water Hog, only Humans do that
Let's change the subject back to why 'Slow Water Movement' is far more important than what Municipalities & Big Business Interests!
Image - Bureau of Land Management

Image - acegeography.com
Many people think of floodplains as something negative which ruins and destroys vaulable property. The reality is they have always provided an abundance of resources for many living things. Mankind as a rule has had economic interests in floodplain soils for farming which have a build up of nutrient rich soils created over thousands of years. But floods still continue tp be an annual occurence and they aren't exactly conducive to the type of neat organized plans farmers, cities and industries prefer nor can they be tolerated. So science has come up with several various technology strategies to prevent this from happening, with the most popular being dredging and straight channelizations of water courses whether a river or a creek. But even this can many times be more problematic than beneficial. In the Southern California view of things, rainwater is something meant to be rapidly transported on it's way towards oceans and away from human habitats and their livelihoods. And yet they'll spend million on importing water 100s to 1000s of miles away to be utilized as drinking water. This same drinking water they use for watering their landscapes. But the meandering slows the water down, doesn't prevent water from going back to the sea, but allows many things to benefit from it's presence along the way. But it's this slowness of meandering floodplains that prevents the rapid transport of water which should be replicated through biomimicry to water various city landscapes and home gardens by means of rain harvesting infrastructure. Without revealing what type of infrastructure, I'll post a couple of links I've already written on the subject which will point out where such respect for water has allowed inventive people to engineer some pretty amazing projects, which allow both water to be harvested and less destructive volumes of water ending up in creeks and rivers which can create unnatural flooding. Watch this three minute video on why rivers curve and meander.

This meandering part of the stream or river which looks very much like an elbow or bend in the river is known as a oxbow. In the photo of the floodplain further up, you can see older oxbows where the river once ran and changed course which allowed curved lakes to remain as part of the greater floodplain. The animation above demonstrates over time just how oxbows develop and become cut off from the main river channel. But again, industrial and urban storm drainage infrastructure could be used to slow this flooding and racing to the ocean way down and syphon much of this polluted street water from entering creeks and streams where high volumes can do the most damage. So much wasted street water like the example below of a Los Angeles street corner that floods, often with very little rainfall.

Image via Sterling Davis / Curbed LA flickr pool
Then we have example of smart curb-side and Parkway median landscaping where rainwater harvesting is taken advantage of which is saving cities fom using their municipal drinking water for irrigating public and private homeowner landscapes. I'll provide some links below this picture below which illustrate many of the designs intelligent creative people have made. 
Image - State College Pennsylvania

Rain Water Harvesting Infrastructure Design Concepts
Tucson Arizona: Regenerating Parks & Parkways through Biomimicry of Floodplains
Beavers can help battle ongoing Drought in desert-like places in Elko, Nevada
(Photo credit: BLM, Elko District - 1980)

(Photo by Bryce Gray)
This is an area about Beavers in which the average human being who likes nature has no clue about the incredible variety of habitats beavers can adapt to and improve. Like the documentary I linked to at the very top of this post, most films depict beavers familes living in a so-called pristine ecosystem loaded with birch, aspen, cottonwood and willows. But take this habitat above. In the west when Europeans arrived, they have attempted to raise livestock like they did previously in the wetter habitats of central or northern Europe and eastern United States. These plants do not respond the same way to herbivore disturbance the same way other plants in wetter climates do. Rather than four seasons, most lower elevation habitats in the west have only two, a wet & a dry season. So grasses and other plants do not recover quickly.  Below is an article from Northwestern University which deals with climate change and how beavers can be used as an incredibly beneficial tools to improve the environment which has been ruined through human stupidity as land stewards.

The rebound of Susie Creek and Maggie Creek in the adjacent watershed began in the early 1990s, when Evans approached ranchers leasing BLM land along the waterways with a proposal to improve grazing practices and restore the riparian habitat, primarily for the health of local fisheries.   
“A lot of it was done for the reintroduction of Lahontan cutthroat trout,” Evans said, referencing Nevada’s state fish, which faces an uphill battle to survive in the face of climate change. Evans said that the area is predicted be out of the species’ temperature range within the next couple decades.   
Fences were put in to restrict cattle access to riparian corridors, enabling vegetation to reclaim the creek bed, trapping sediment and building a floodplain. By 1996, a number of willow saplings had taken root, and by 2003, beaver recolonized the creeks as an unintended consequence of the restoration effort.   
“I didn’t know it would turn out the way it did,” said Evans, noting that throughout the BLM’s Elko District there has been a “build it and they will come” relationship between rehabilitated habitat and beaver. Although Evans does not know precise population data, beaver are now found in a number of regional streams, including an 11-mile stretch of Susie Creek and approximately 16 miles of the Maggie Creek basin.   
Beaver are hardly newcomers to the area. In colonial times the species used to be nearly ubiquitous throughout North America before their pelts ignited a fashion craze that fueled exploration of the continent and eradicated them from much of their historic habitat range.  Besides humans, beaver are perhaps the animal that exerts the greatest influence on the natural environment, and the wide-scale elimination of the species had a profound impact on water resources.
From the early 19th century to the late 20th century, an estimated 48-64 million acres of American wetlands were converted to dry land, with much of that habitat loss linked to the simultaneous decline in the beaver population.   
“Look at those numbers in terms of water that’s being held,” said Dr. Suzanne Fouty, an Oregon-based hydrologist who works with the U.S. Forest Service and has visited Susie and Maggie creeks. Fouty likened that water storage system to savings accounts.   
“In the West, you want to make sure that when you get a windfall of water, your savings accounts are ready to take it in,” she said “Those savings accounts are essentially empty right now.” But beaver habitat can change that, she said. “Instead of (water) racing downstream and flooding, it’s slowed down and stored and you have all these areas of savings accounts being filled up.”   
And those “savings” influence more than just surface water, as they can percolate through soil to become groundwater and recharge aquifers. At Maggie Creek, a one- to two-foot rise in the water table has been observed, even during drought years.   
Evans said that beaver habitat has such tremendous water storage potential because the species essentially converts a watershed into “a slow-moving lake” progressing through a staircase of beaver ponds, instead of as a gushing torrent. She believes that’s how the area’s streams once flowed in their original state, since soil profiles still show the traces of long periods of standing water in the valley bottom.   
“I’m sure the beaver were a large mechanism in that,” Evans said. “They were such an important part of the ecology of the system. You see how prevalent they can be.”  But grazing, too, can change the landscape. Dan Gralian is the general manager of the 400,000-acre TS Ranch, bounded to the east by Maggie Creek. He acknowledged that generations of abusive ranching practices hurt the land where trappers left off. “If you remove the stability of the land – the plants and the root structure – that’s what holds the land together,” said Gralian. 
“If you remove that, it becomes vulnerable to erosion. And that did occur over a large area of the West and this is one of those areas.”  That destructive legacy is still evident from the old, dry irrigation ditches sitting 10-15 feet above the present level of Susie Creek, where beaver and cattle are attempting to coexist as unlikely neighbors. “This is the story of the West,” says Evans. “When you have poor grazing practices and beaver together, it's totally not sustainable.
(Photo credit: BLM, Elko District - 2011)

(Photo by Bryce Gray)
Here in the photo above is that same location as the one in the 1980  of Maggie Creek that you saw of how dry and eroded the area once was, this 2011 image shows the stream’s wetter transformation. But also take close note of a freshly chewed Silver Sagebrush stump which is a sure sign of beaver activity along Susie Creek. Hardly no one would ever appreciate this from watching all those Disney type documentaries over the past several decades. Who would ever associate Beaver with such dam construction materials ? Even food sources and diets of beaver can change from riparian trees. In addition to willow and cottonwood, beavers will eat cattail roots, blackberry vines, fennel, pondweed, and various scrub plants. But cattails can often overwhelm a pond and crowd out open water, here is a video showing how beaver can even help keep that under control through summer feeding on this aquatic plant.

This video is only about 25 seconds long, but well illustrates how well they can maintain small ponds and lakes. We already know how things go without their presence if cattails are not manually (even chemically) dealt with to maintain open water for fish and other creatures. Below here the Northwest University article continues:
Whether beaver can be used on a broader scale to help the West conserve dwindling water resources remains to be seen, but the recolonization of streams in northern Nevada provides a hopeful snapshot of their climate change mitigation potential.   
“Nevada is so water-limited, if beavers can transform this landscape, they can do it anywhere,” said Fouty.   
Similar projects have taken root in other parts of the West. In Washington state, Forest Service officials are using reintroduced beaver to increase water resources for coho and Chinook salmon. In Colorado, “nuisance” beaver are being relocated from population centers to habitat where their ecological services will be less disruptive. And in Idaho in the 1940s, the state Department of Fish and Game launched a stranger-than-fiction campaign to parachute beavers in crates into the backcountry.   
Whatever role beaver ultimately play in the future of the West, they will need their significant environmental footprint to find a balance with ranching and other land uses. But if the BLM’s Elko District is any indication, that’s certainly possible.   
“We didn’t recognize that we have similar goals,” Griggs said, noting that ranchers like him have quite a bit in common with their aquatic neighbors. 
“I have a lot of respect for beaver. They’re probably the hardest-working things in the animal kingdom. We just needed to figure out a way to have them work for us.”
(Source: Northwestern University)
Historical Photos Reveal & Illustrate Change
 Photos: Bureau of Land Management
How beavers have enhanced the Susie Creek Watershed in north-central Nevada since 1991
Rough and Beautiful Places in Nevada
Journal of Rangeland Applications - Incredible Befores & Afters
Practical Grazing Management to Maintain or Restore Riparian Functions and Values on Rangelands
TOM WARREN & CAROL EVANS Bureau of Land Management

I loved that read and the setting for which it was referencing. Again, it gives folks a different take on the variety of habitats that Beavers can sustainably benefit. Also interesting was the reasons for reintroducing the Beaver. While they had to convince the ranchers of improvements to the grazing habitat, the other reasons were just as important. Remember, "restore the riparian habitat, primarily for the health of local fisheries." And of course the prime subject was reintroducing the Lahotan Cutthroat Trout. This reminded me of other important fisheries which could benefit from a natural meandering floodplain being restored for the benefit of juvenile fish like the native fish of the Colorado River and Salmon of California.

Photos by Jacob Katz
The top photo is from a program started to reintroduce juvenile Salmon back into floodplains of the Yolo Bypass in Northern California where much of it is farmland. With cooperation with one farmer, the fish were proven to grow faster and fatten up better than if they were forced to stay within the main river channel where there is less food and more predators. The very things they dealt with here are identical to challenges faced by native Colorado River fish like the Razorback Sucker, whose juveniles also benefit from floodplain nurseries. Anyway, both stories of the two fish were fun and interesting and highlighted the value of floodplains
Floodplain Farmlands Benefit Juvenile Western Native Fish
Image - Biographic 
This last topic below hits close to home for me because the beavers of western Riverside County in California were prospering wonderfully, until some official experts decided they weren't the original inhabitants of the landscape (this is a flat out lie) and they mandated that they be killed or moved. The other bogus story was beaver were destroying the habitat of an endangered songbird. Another rumor was that drinking water officials viewed them as fouling the water. And yet another lie.
Success and Failure in Western Riverside Californa with regards Beavers
Image - Pail Mason - Lake Skinner Temecula Ca

This first link below is to a post by Duane Nash of Ventura who has a passionate love for everything to do with Beavers and follows their historical and present locations within the state, but especially Southern California. Duane touches on the Santa Margarita River canyon southwest of the city of Temecula where Beavers have even dwelled within the city's Murrieta Creek. The second post is mine comparing human dams to Beaver dams. But I also touch on the tragety that happened to this Lake Skinner you see here in the photos above and below. The other excuse for removal was that these beavers were destroying the Least Bell's Vireo & Southwestern Willow Flycatcher habitat who need willows. This is a sham because beaver actually expand riparian habitats creating more resources for other creatures. In an ironic twist, when the beaver ponds dried out after the beaver were removed and dams destroyed, the invasive Tamarisk moved in and took the place of willows. 
Southern California's Santa Margarita River: Undammed by Man, But Not Beaver
How human dams destabilize river food webs & Beaver Dams stabilize them

Image - Aaron Claverie - The Press-Enterprise
Further references on Lake Skinner Beavers
Management by assertion: beavers and songbirds at Lake Skinner (Riverside County, California)
Practical Application for Biomimicry of both Meandering Floodplains & Beaver Dams
Floodplain Farmlands Benefit Juvenile Western Native Fish
Rain Water Harvesting Infrastructure Design Concepts
Tucson Arizona: Regenerating Parks & Parkways through Biomimicry of Floodplains


  1. This is really good coverage - sad especially on the Salt Lake County issue, but still informative. Most people think one side (their side) is good and the other is bad even on the environment, but it is the processes which are good.

    Years ago I was sitting with another LA at a conference, and she kept whispering how terrible the presenter's design was with places to trip. It was a stepped walkway in the Negev Desert at a university, and was very clever showing interaction with water where water is scarce. Would probably never be built here in the lawsuit-happy US of A.

    1. Thanks, I love the water harvesting inovation concepts which are based of designs found in Nature. In our modern day secular world nature takes major hits for being poorly designed (purpose of such thought is to attack religion), but nfortunately this has backfired on our environment and makes me wonder where most science obsessed environmentalists really stand on the side of preserving nature as it is if nature is really flawed. They have quite a dilemma if they wish to be taken seriously.

      BTW, do you no longer have cmments on your site ? I've been there many times but can find no comment section other than liking the post.

    2. Yes, I decided to take off commenting for a while - comments dropped off so much, that I figured interaction was no longer important. Many changes on blogs I am sensing my 2 years off.

      Nature poorly designed? Ha! The US seems to not be in that state, though there is a mindset like that I've heard from the UK (garden visitors I met in Austin) and some here (landscape architects, an author, and Del Tridici from Harvard) that seem to be of that mindset...devaluing natives as being inferior to exotic invasives. Weird, regrettable ideas.

    3. David Cristiani: "Nature poorly designed? Ha!"

      The dogma, Argument from Poor Design" was introduced so that Leftwing Fundies could score imaginary Brownie Points against Rightwing Fundies in debates about life's origins. But it's backfired on Nature. Over the decadfes it has influenced the way Scientists pursue technological innovation which has done more damage to the Earth, than save it. Take for example the sutle quips used in corporate advertising to indoctrinate consumers of viewing the planet as flawed and how industrial consumables can save the day for mankind. Here's a prime example below, though many may never have realized just how damaging the concept of trashing the earth for profit has really become.

      Chevron spot: "Home Gardening" - 1977

      You will never get one single "IFL Science" cult member to ever acknowledge this.


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