Beaver and Process-Based Restoration Trainings in France

In April 2024, WATER Institute Co-Director Kate Lundquist and our close collaborator, Kevin Swift of Swift Water Design, headed to France. French artist Suzanne Husky and French author and professor of philosophy Baptiste Morizot in collaboration with Syndicat d’Aménagement du Bassin Versant du Ciron and Association Rivière Rhône Alpes Auvergne (ARRA²) invited them to conduct trainings on beaver and process-based restoration in three watersheds across the country. These trainings on “low-tech regeneration of rivers by beaver techniques” were a mix of philosophy, ecology, science, feedback, and a lot of fieldwork to change how we look at and act with rivers.

Kevin Swift and Kate Lundquist illustrate building postless beaver dam analogs (BDAs) using the layered “lasagna method” at the Véore/Lierne River site. (Photo: Félix Grippon of PermaLab)

The first training, hosted by the Syndicat d’Aménagement du Bassin Versant du Ciron, took place in western France near Bordeaux. This day-long training included morning presentations by Sebastién Irola, Kate, and Kevin and a full afternoon of installing two dozen structures on Ruisseau de Taleyson Creek in the Ciron watershed south of Bordeaux. The project was immensely successful, and wetting a wider area of the riparian corridor immediately increased the channel complexity and extent of the aquatic habitat.

Suzanne Husky, Kate Lundquist, Baptiste Morizot, and Kevin Swift offer field instruction to participants of the training in the Puy de Dôme in the municipalities of Vic-le-Comte and Corent. This site is located at the confluence of the Charlet and the Allier rivers. The Allier is one of the few remaining rivers in France that continues to support an Atlantic salmon run. (Photo: Association Rivière Rhône Alpes Auvergne (ARRA²))

The second and third three-day intensive trainings were hosted by a river restoration non-profit called the Association Rivière Rhône Alpes Auvergne (ARRA²). These trainings occurred in central France near Vic-Le-Comte and Corent (L’Allier River watershed) and eastern France near Chateaudouble and Chabeuil (Véore/Lierne River watershed). Kevin and Kate taught 40 restoration professionals, agency and non-profit staff, and regulators how to build institutional support for, design, permit, and implement beaver and process-based restoration in these diverse settings.

Caption: Kevin Swift demonstrates creating a postless Beaver Dam Analogue using onsite materials (French broom and mud) in Ruisseau de Taleyson Creek. (Photo: Syndicat d’Aménagement du Bassin Versant du Ciron)

Our time in France was magnifique. While our work to get beaver and process-based restoration techniques accepted, funded, and implemented in California is a decade ahead of France, we had much to learn from one another. Our thoughtful conversations about political strategies and the collaborative design and implementation of dozens of instream structures at all three sites immediately generated significant outcomes in both the social and riverine systems present. 

Training participants and instructors gather in a newly inundated pool created by strategically placing instream structures in Ruisseau de Taleyson Creek. (Photo: Syndicat d’Aménagement du Bassin Versant du Ciron)

One participant, Félix Grippon of PermaLab, sums up the work together like this, “On the pilot site of the Véore and the Lierne (municipalities of Chabeuil and Chateaudouble) a complex of beaver structures has been added to the river, which for the moment is responding favorably: secondary channels have been reopened, the water levels have risen, new wetlands have appeared, sediments have accumulated, a quantity of habitats for fish fauna have been created….. We intend to integrate this new paradigm into our regenerative hydrology practices, which are particularly complementary.”

Suzanne Husky interprets for Kate Lundquist as she gives a talk to training participants. Her talk covered successful strategies for building a beaver restoration movement and lessons France might learn from OAEC’s Bring Back the Beaver Campaign. Slide title translation: Beaver Can Help! (Photo: Jacob Kowalick Allen / Swift Water Design)

We heard from many participants that these trainings left them feeling inspired to effect great change and well-prepared to start integrating these innovative techniques into their restoration practices. Some very important changemakers from across the country were present and have committed to taking the lead on furthering the evolution of river restoration in France to include these low-cost, climate-smart, and nature-based solutions. We are very excited to see what comes of this amazingly successful collaboration and look forward to hosting our French partners when they come to California this summer.

Suzanne Husky’s artistic rendition of beaver and process-based restoration evolution, inspired by the seminal Design Criteria for Process-Based Restoration of Fluvial Systems paper. This beautiful image has been included in the interpretive signs installed at the Véore/Lierne site explaining the restoration work. (Source: Suzanne Husky)

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