What Can Beavers Do?
The Beaver Solution: Building Wetlands & Storing Water in Eastern Washington
Eastern Washington, along with many regions, needs more options to manage its water due to increasing demands from downstream users and a changing climate. During spring runoff when water demands are low, water runs downstream providing few benefits.The inability of our streams and rivers to store spring runoff has resulted in reduced flow in the Columbia River and its tributaries when peak water demand occurs in the late summer and fall from farmers, cities, and salmon.
Traditional solutions to water storage dilemmas involve building large, man-made dams. But while these dams would pump water into a reservoir in the spring and release it in the summer, they could cost up to ten billion dollars and flood thousands of acres of farmland and wildlife habitat.
The Lands Council's Beaver Solution is a unique alternative – by encouraging and facilitating beaver populations throughout the region we can build a complex network of water storage ponds in small tributaries. The water behind beaver dams, including the surrounding ground water, is slowly released naturally to increase flows in the summer and fall. But the benefits don't stop there: beaver dams create wetlands which purify water and provide habitat for all kinds of species, from fish to birds, and from frogs to moose! Beaver dams also provide an important water source to combat wildfire in remote areas. The benefits of beavers are innumerable.
The Lands Council believes that we can increase beaver populations through a multifaceted approach. First, we understand that while beavers are beneficial, they can cause problems for landowners. That's why we offer to help landowners protect trees and culverts, or lower pond levels depending on the problem. See Challenges to learn more. In some cases, we even live-trap and relocate families of "nuisance" beaver in order to retain the environmental benefits of their dams. In 2010-12 we relocated 11 beaver families in Eastern Washington! However, if we really want to see beaver populations expand we need to build more beaver habitat. That's why every year The Lands Council plants thousands of native trees in streamside areas. To can learn more, see Restoration Efforts. Finally, we realize our efforts can only be sustained with public support and awareness. That's why we work to change policy, and educate elected officials and citizens alike on the benefits of beaver. If you're a beaver believer, consider supporting our efforts by donating to The Lands Council today!
Photos from top to bottom: (1)dam complex near Bonaparte Lake (2)measuring a beaver dam at Liberty Lake (3)beaver in water - taken by Mark Baker