climate change

Join Bark in protecting Oregon's beavers!

Bark is supporting an effort by a coalition of conservation and outdoor groups to pass three pro-beaver-water-and habitat restoration bills this year in the Oregon legislature. These three bills would:

  • Restrict beaver trapping on federally managed lands in Oregon,
  • Remove statute which gives the beaver a “predatory” designation (which means they can be killed without oversight), and
  • Provide resources for landowners who want to coexist with beavers and other wildlife instead of lethally removing them.

Right now, we are focused on getting HB 2843 a hearing in the Oregon Legislature. Send a letter to your representatives today! [link to action page]

These bills are all interrelated and compliment each other. Habitat created by beaver brings significant ecological and economic benefits to people, fish and wildlife. For these benefits to be realized, beavers must be able to build and maintain their dams while expanding their numbers and distributions across the state. 

  • HB 2843 Prohibits the removal of beavers on federally managed public land, in waters of this state as waters flow through federally managed public land or in pond, lake or water storage facility on federally managed public land.
  • HB 2844 Provides,  for the purposes  of  certain  statutes  relating  to  taking  of  predatory  animals,  that  terms “predatory  animal”  and  “rodent”  do  not  include  beavers.
  • HB 2689 Directs the State  Department  of Agriculture  to  establish  grant  program  for  purpose  of  facilitating nonlethal  deterrence  of  wildlife  conflict  species  by  farmers  and  ranchers.

    Color photograph of a beaver swimming, partially submerged in water. The green ripples move out from the wet furbearer's face.
    Photo by David Moskowitz

Current furbearer regulations allow for recreational and commercial beaver trapping and hunting during the breeding/pregnancy season. Since beaver kits (young) stay with the adults for up to two years, a whole colony can be wiped out in a single season under the current regulations! From 2000 to 2018, over 58,000 beaver kills were reported to the State. These three bills would reduce the only cause of beaver mortality that humans can control—trapping and hunting by the public. Federal land managers are not restricted by this bill and would retain the ability to manage beaver-infrastructure conflicts. While non-lethal control methods are encouraged to prevent recurring problems and costs, and to maintain beaver-related benefits, all options for addressing beaver-infrastructure conflicts remain open. Beaver trapping and hunting would still be allowed on state and county public lands and on private lands with landowner permission.

2021 Beaver Bills Benefit Oregon

HB 2843 affects fewer than 170 beaver trappers and hunters who are licensed under furbearer regulations through ODFW (ODFW 2018 data), while benefiting 4.2 million Oregonians and countless fish and wildlife. Passage of HB 2843 would provide numerous benefits to Oregonians at little to no cost, while an economic analysis shows that the market and non-market benefits of passing this bill are worth 100s of millions of dollars in ecosystems services and restoration savings. These benefits would increase in value over time. HB 2843 would affect about 32-million acres in Oregon, or roughly 50% of the state.

Beavers in Oregon create:

  • Natural firebreaks, wildlife and livestock safety zones during wildfires, and habitat post-fire
  • Carbon capture and storage areas that remove carbon from the atmosphere via photosynthesis 
  • Wetlands and ponds that store surface and groundwater for slow and sustained release
  • A uniform, unambiguous beaver trapping/hunting policy on FMPLs with statewide benefits

    Unburned area with beaver presence after the Sharps Creek Fire in Idaho. Photo by Joe Wheaton, Utah State University Department of Watershed Sciences
    Unburned area with beaver presence after the Sharps Creek Fire in Idaho. Photo by Joe Wheaton, Utah State University Department of Watershed Sciences

Beavers improve and expand:

  • Water security for municipal and agricultural users 
  • Drinking water quality
  • Fish and wildlife habitat, including rearing habitat for 11 endangered salmonid stocks in Oregon 
  • Stream and riparian habitat restoration efforts
  • Stream temperatures
  • Migratory bird habitat
  • Recreational opportunities
     

Oregon's 2021 Beaver Bills Address State Goals and Objectives

Climate Change and Mt. Hood's Forests

Join Clackamas Stewardship Partners (CSP) and Bark on Tuesday, February 23, 2021 for a timely and informative presentation on climate change and the implications for Mt. Hood National Forest.

Bark Alert: Learning Lessons from the Land

As I write, Mt. Hood National Forest is burning. Several new fires are burning through the Clackamas River Ranger District and information is changing by the minute. But, since August 17th, I’ve had my eyes on the White River Fire on the east side of Mt. Hood National Forest.

Letter to Oregon Global Warming Commission on natural resource agencies’ EO 20-04 implementation plans

"...we expect the OGWC to provide critical review and constructive recommendations on the natural resource agencies’ proposed plans for implementing the executive order’s directives. Where necessary for achieving climate goals, we expect the OGWC to compel the agencies to improve their plans."

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.  

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.

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.  The presence of beaver can improve water quality, mitigate effect of climate change, and restore habitat for many animal species including andromonous (migratory) fish like salmon and steelhead.

Bark began working to restore this keystone species to the forests surrounding Mt. Hood in 2018 with Portland State University senior capstone projects.  Since then Bark has continued work surveying potential beaver habitat, mapping wetlands in Mt. Hood National Forest, and working to estimate water capacity of wetlands to understand which wetlands can provide the most restoration with reintroduction of beavers.

How do beavers change their environments?

Beavers change their habitats to make suitable homes from themselves. They use mud, silt, and sticks to create dams and build lodges.  Beaver dams create ponds which can increase the surface area of water several hundred times. This increases riparian areas and wetlands and from streams and can restore riparian areas and watersheds by increasing the complexity of those systems.

What effects do these changes have?

  • Erosion Control: Beaver ponds expand riparian (river & stream) vegetation by expanding water available for wetland and riparian plants.  This increased vegetation along stream banks protects against erosion leading to better water quality for human use and better habitat for the salmon and steelhead in those streams.
  • Improve stream temperatures: Currently ODEQ has thousands of stream miles listed as water quality impaired for temperature. The rise in water tables in beaver dominated meadows results in increased groundwater contributions to streams and ponds. When combined with deeper pond water depths, the result is a decrease in stream temperatures. This decrease can, in some cases, result in the stream or a segment of the stream being delisted.
  • Habitat Creation: The ponds and meadows created by beavers enhance habitat for game species like ducks, deer & elk as well as improve migratory bird habitat.  Expanded beaver ponds, wetlands, wet meadows and structurally complex and diverse riparian habitat across the state provide increased food sources, habitat resting areas, and rearing areas including snags for cavity nesting species. Benefits threatened, sensitive, and declining species like the Willow Flycatcher, Yellow Warbler, Song Sparrow and Yellow-breasted Chat.
  • Salmon Recovery: The abundance of adromous fish, including salmon and steelhead, has been adversely affected by dams, overharvest, hatchery practices, habitat degradation, and will soon be affected by climate change.  The late-run coho salmon Clackamas River along are considered the last remaining viable wild coho population in the Columbia Basin.  The changes beavers make to their habitat can aid in salmon recovery in a number of ways:
  • Improves Andromonous (migratory) Fish Habitat: Andromonous fish benefit from clean and clear water, deep pools, low water flows, and woody material in water.  Beaver presence contributes to all of these factors.
  • Improves rearing habitat:  Rearing habitat has been identified as a hey limiting factor to salmonid species and beaver ponds have been identified as a key source of rearing habitat.  As they provide, adequate food and a protective environment for salmon growth and survival
  • Beaver’s effects on the environment are similar to the work that many agencies have done to restore riparian habitats and improve water quality and quantity.  Beaver-created restoration is self-maintaing and self-enhancing as beavers continue to be around to repair dam breaches.  Using this approach to restoration minimizes spending on the repetitive and reoccurring costs of maintaining restoration efforts so that dollars would be available to focus on species and restoration efforts in areas not influenced by beavers.

Beavers as Climate Change Mitigation

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 drought in forested ecosystems. On the Clackamas watershed specifically, river flow has already shifted to greater rain-driven flows and less snow-melt driven flows. This combined with less summertime flow is a significant concern for both drinking water and salmon habitat. These changes are projected to be most prominent in the highest elevation watersheds, where flows are currently most dependent on winter snow accumulation. 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.
 
 
How do beavers mitigate the effects of climate change?
  • Improves water security and quality for municipal, ranching, and agricultural users. Beaver dams, ponds and resulting wetlands and wet meadows increase temporary surface water and groundwater in the headwaters resulting in water being more slowly and sustainably releasedThis stabilizes river flows during droughts and damaging flood events, recharges aquifers, and helps to  offset the impacts of drought and decrease the frequency and magnitudes of downstream flooding. Abundant wetlands and ponds lead to improved water quality (i.e. cooler stream temperatures, less sediment) because beaver ponds and dams act as a giant water filter, resulting in cleaner water downstream.  Restoring beaver populations is important as water coming from national forests is used as drinking water for a large percentage of Oregonians and contributes to water used for ranching and agriculture.
  • Creates carbon capture and storage areas. Wetlands and wet meadows extract carbon from the air and store it in roots and decaying matter below ground, and in the abundant riparian vegetation above ground. Beaver ponds also capture and store carbon as dead vegetation is submerged under water.  This natural process of carbon capture and storage related to wetlands, wet meadows and ponds directly addresses climate change and is currently an underutilized climate change response strategy.  
  • Creates wildfire safe zones for wildlife and livestock and aid in post-fire recovery.  An increase in size, severity, and frequency of wildfires is expected and currently seen with climate change.  The increase in abundance, size, and distribution of wetlands, wet meadows, and ponds across the state creates safe zones during wildfire for wildlife and livestock to retreat to. Forage and habitat recover more quickly post-fire than upland vegetation because of the presence of abundant water and the fact that many riparian plants are fire-adapted and respond favorably to the disturbance. Beaver ponds and wetlands/wet meadows help maintain downstream water quality by trapping sediment that might erode off hillslopes post-fire.

​​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.  If you are interested inparticipating in this work, learn more about volunteering here.
  • Working to more accurately map wetlands in Mt Hood National Forest.
  • Estimating water capacity of wetlands to understand which wetlands could most benefit from beaver reintroduction
  • 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

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

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.

Photo Sources:

Top photo by David Moskowitz

Beavers alter Geomorphology Diagram source: Cascadia Wild

Stream/Pond Effect on Water Table source: Cascadia Wild

Project Status: 
Restoration

Judge Approves Old-Growth Logging in Mt. Hood

The best available science tells us that logging mature and old growth forests does not improve forest health, reduce fire severity or improve spotted owl habitat. When the Forest Service failed to incorporate the scientific research into their final decision, Bark decided to challenge the project in court.

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!

August Ecology Club: What is the Future of Fire in the Cascades?

In August, we're excited to invite Andy McEvoy to present his research on forest fire in the Cascade Range. Andy is a Masters student at Portland State University in the Department of Environmental Science and Management. His research focuses on modeling future fire activity in west-side Cascade forests and he is eager for his work to help communities better plan for future conditions.

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