Beaver Habitat Restoration Project

Bringing Beavers Back to Mt. Hood 

Beginning in the 1800s, beavers in Oregon were hunted to near extinction by the European fur trade. While populations in low-lying areas have begun to recover, beavers continue to be killed in large numbers by federal and state wildlife agencies. Bark began working to restore this keystone species to the forests surrounding Mt. Hood in 2018 with Portland State University senior capstone projects. 

medium-sized brown beaver holding a small stick in the middle of a pondWith healthier populations of this aquatic ecosystem keystone, beaver will be encouraged to engineer complex pond systems that provide important wetland habitat while simultaneously slowing the movement of water over the landscape. These resulting beaver ponds help to recharge aquifers (groundwater) while also protecting juvenile fish and preventing erosion during high flow events. 

Current research predicts that climate change will severely alter precipitation and temperature patterns in the Pacific Northwest by midcentury, resulting in both more flood events and droughts. By working proactively to defend and restore the natural processes of the forest ecosystem, we can mitigate the local impacts of climate change on Mt. Hood’s watersheds.

Mt. Hood National Forest is the source of domestic water for more than one million people, as well as being a critical freshwater habitat for a suite of aquatic species, including the culturally-iconic and threatened salmon and steelhead. Climate change puts our invaluable drinking water sources at risk, as well as the fish that rely on this cold, clear water.

 

Beavers and their structures support ecosystems by providing: 

  • Water storage: In the era of climate change, beaver dams & ponds stabilize river flows during droughts and damaging flood events. They also recharge aquifers.  
  • Erosion control: Beaver ponds expand riparian (river & stream) vegetation which protects stream banks against erosion. 
  • Salmon recovery: Anadromous (migratory) fish benefit from access to deep pools during low water flows and areas with large amounts of woody material in the water which provides fish shelfter from high flows
  • Habitat Creation: The ponds and meadows created by beavers enhace habbitat for game species like ducks, deer & elk. These wetlands provide critical migratory stopovers for bird species like the sandill crane.

 

Bark is supporting the return of beavers to Mt. Hood in several ways: 
flooded Tumala meadow in the North Clack area

  • Bark is working with Portland State University, Cascadia Wild, the Mapping Action Collective, and the U.S. Forest Service to identify & prioritize existing and potential habitat in Mt. Hood National Forest that could support the reintroduction of beaver
  • Endorsing the closing or decommissioning of unnecessary and ecologically damaging logging roads which could fragment beaver habitat or create future conflicts if deteriorating culverts (drainage tunnels) are instinctively plugged up by beavers attempting to create a new home
  • Working with the Forest Service to identify & replace undersized road culverts and installing beaver-friendly structures, which prevent unwanted flooding
  • Restoring distributions of beaver-preferred plant species like willows through informed re-planting in degraded areas (this vegetation is both eaten and used in beaver dam and lodge-building) 
  • Advocating for an end to lethal removal of “nuisance beavers” in low-lying areas, and instead, making the case for re-location of these animals to areas they previously inhabited on federal forest lands
  • Advocating for the return of gray wolves to their former range in Oregon, whose presence has the potential to alleviate impacts on streambanks currently overgrazed by deer, elk, and cattle 

Bark volunteers next to a pond, working on a beaver restoration site

Beaver Habitat Surveys have been completed for Pint Creek Meadow, Anvil Lake, Clackamas Lake, Warm Springs Meadow, Olallie Meadow, Pyramid Lake, Cripple Creek, Boulder Creek.

We need your support in our efforts to help beavers return to Mt. Hood! Find volunteer opportunities on the Beaver Habitat Survey and Restoration page.

 

(top photo by David Moskowitz)

Project Status: 
Restoration