beaver

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

Base Camp Happening Now!

Join us in the forest for Base Camp August 20th – September 2nd!

Join us in the forest for Base Camp August 20th – September 2nd!

Join us in the forest for Base Camp August 20th-September 2nd!

Beaver Habitat Survey and Restoration

We need your support in our efforts to help beavers return to Mt. Hood!

FULL: Beaver Habitat Survey Training

*This training is now full. Please stay tuned for more opportunities this summer to get involved in this important work.

Could Beavers Save Us?

Beaver dams create wetlands that help decrease the impacts of floods, recharge drinking water aquifers, protect watersheds from drought, decrease erosion, remove toxic pollutants, create habitat for threatened salmon, and much more!

Announcement: Base Camp 2018!

We will host a group camp in a free, undeveloped site in Mt. Hood. Base Camp is open to all who wish to join for any length of time, even if just one day.

The North Clack Timber Sale is located just 35 miles east of Portland, near the Clackamas River in Mt. Hood National Forest. This project, planned by the local Forest Service, includes roughly 4,000 acres of commercial (industrial) logging, 255-371 acres of which is clearcutting or "regeneration harvest" in Forest Service terminology. This logging activity would require nearly 20 miles of road-building in order to access the targeted areas, which has major negative effects on hydrological function of the local ecosystem. Around 1,200 acres of the logging proposed targets mature forest (over 80 years old) with scattered old growth patches.

Bark's annual, volunteer groundtruthing campout, Base Camp, within the project are during the summer of 2018. Over two-weeks, volunteers field checked each unit of the proposed project and found countless old growth trees, unmapped streams, and sensitive plant species. Working with the Northwest Ecosystem Survey Team (NEST), Bark located 42 nests of the red tree vole, a federally protected rodent that lives in the old growth canopy. Each confirmed nest requires a 10-acre buffer and the Forest Service had previously informed Bark that there would be buffers on all confirmed nests. Disappointingly, the Forest Service had not yet included buffers for the red tree vole nests in the Preliminary Assessment documents released in March 2019. Instead, the Forest Service has proposed additional clearcutting in areas known to have nesting red tree voles. Originally proposing 255 acres, the agency has now included an additional alternative that includes a total of 371 acres of "regeneration harvest".

Here is an interactive map of the project displaying the current proposed actions.Locator map showing the area of the North Clack Timber Sale within the larger area of Mt. Hood National Forest

Logging has been shown by Oregon State University and the Oregon Global Warming Commission to be a top contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon, so it's important that the Forest Service hear from the public that they want their forests to be a carbon sink, not source. We believe the Forest Service should be working to restore the forest in this area by decommissioning old logging roads, rehabilitating illegally-created motorized trails, and improving habitat for species like salmon and beaver.

The most recent public comment period ended on April, 15th, but concerned members of the public are encouraged to contact the Forest Service throughout the planning of this project. Click here to contact the Forest Service regarding the destructive North Clack Timber Sale.

The outdated Mt. Hood National Forest Management Plan still prioritizes the majority of this area as "Timber Emphasis." Looking back, this project area has a history of logging and wildfire. The area was originally privately owned, and logging began well over a century ago using a railroad and steam donkey system. After several logging and railroad-related fires, much of the burned area was salvage logged, and was either replanted or re-seeded naturally. Some of this land was transferred to the Forest Service as part of a settlement for fire damages. North Clack also includes some areas more recently burned in 2014 in the 36 Pit Fire.

North Clack encompasses the La Dee Flats OHV riding area, which has a history and reputation of unauthorized motorized trail building. Bark believes that opening up the forest through logging (and building new roads to do so) consistently brings about more of this type of activity, and Bark is pushing the Forest Service to consider this additional impact.

(above) Area of North Clack naturally regenerated from 1902 fire.

Project Status: 
Proposed
General Information
District: 
Clackamas River Ranger District
Watershed: 

North Fork Clackamas Watershed