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NW Fishletter #387, Nov. 5, 2018

[12] Beaver Restoration Helps Salmon Habitat, Council Panel Told

A decade-long project to restore beavers in parts of the upper Columbia River Basin is also helping restore salmon habitat, project leaders told the Northwest Power and Conservation Council's Fish and Wildlife Committee Oct. 9.

Cody Gillin, project manager for Trout Unlimited, and Julie Nelson, education and outreach coordinator for the Methow Beaver Project, said beavers create natural pools and side channels, add water storage and woody debris, and cool water temperatures in areas where they've been reintroduced over the past decade (the water cooling is due to increased groundwater storage that returns colder water to the streams).

Ten years after the Methow Beaver Project began trapping nuisance beavers and moving them to higher elevations on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, federal scientists released a manual titled "The Beaver Restoration Guidebook," to help others bring beavers back to the landscape. The publication examines how beaver dams impact the environment, discusses watershed restoration and offers insights into relocating beavers.

Gillin told the panel that before Europeans came to North America, the continent supported between 60 million and 400 million beavers. By 1900, their systematic removal left only about 100,000 beavers, but a slow recovery has revived populations to about 10 million beavers today. He described how beaver dams work to change and improve the environment for fish and other wildlife.

Nelson told the committee that in 10 years, the Methow Beaver Project has relocated about 400 beavers, and re-established 50 sites. She said public education on the ecological importance of beavers has been an important piece.

Scientists are working on a long-term study on the impacts of beavers on water temperatures, and will soon compile and analyze the information gathered. Also under study is the increase in water storage resulting from relocated beavers, she said.

"The loss of beavers off the landscape was detrimental to our ecosystems," she told the committee. "If we can give them the space they need ... they really are an indispensable partner in our restoration efforts," she concluded. -K.C. Mehaffey

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Publisher/Editor-in-Chief: Mark Ohrenschall, Editor: K.C. Mehaffey
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