*We at the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center WATER Institute have tremendous news! On May 13th, Governor Gavin Newsom announced a Revision of the Fiscal Year 2022-23 state budget that proposes a new Beaver Restoration Program to be led by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). After years of tireless work trying to convince policy makers of the benefits of beaver, we are pleased to hear the Governor state in his proposal:
“To be successful in our efforts to protect biodiversity, the Department must take a proactive leap towards bringing beavers back onto the landscape through a concerted effort to combine prioritized restoration projects, partnerships with local, federal, and state agencies and tribes, and updated policies and practices that support beaver management and conservation throughout the State…beavers are an untapped, creative climate solving hero that helps prevent the loss of biodiversity facing California.”
This proposal will allow CDFW to revise beaver policies and guidelines in development of a comprehensive beaver management plan. The team will develop an integrated and proactive approach to mitigate human-beaver conflict and will coordinate with other agencies and departments to prioritize beaver restoration projects.
The legislature will now weigh in and hold hearings over the next month. Both houses of the legislature must vote to formally adopt the final budget by midnight on June 15th. We will be continuing to advocate for inclusion of this amazing proposal in the final budget. See the letter we just submitted to which over 100 organizations signed-on in support.
This sea-change has come as a result of many years of advocacy from the WATER Institute and other organizations, and further amplified by our targeted Bring Back the Beaver Campaign efforts over the past two and a half years. In 2019 the OAEC WATER Institute and co-petitioners at the Environmental Information Protection Center and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a regulation change petition with the CA Fish and Game Commission to get CDFW to develop a rigorous guidance document for how they issue beaver depredation permits to landowners. The petitioners are advocating that landowners be required to try co-existence measures first and, if present, protect endangered species before receiving a permit to kill the beaver. CDFW is due to release this guidance document soon.
In 2021 our advocacy efforts got a significant boost when we began working with Jennifer Fearing of Fearless Advocacy, Inc. With her peerless guidance, we were able to coordinate a massive show of support for the letter we submitted to Director Wade Crowfoot at the CA Natural Resource Agency (CNRA). Thanks in large part to this letter, beaver and process-based restoration have now been included as nature-based solutions in the final version of the Natural and Working Lands Climate Smart Strategy.
After meeting with upper management at CDFW to offer science-based recommendations for how to better integrate beaver and process-based restoration into their conservation efforts, we have begun to see some significant changes emerge. Our state resource conservation agencies have begun expressing a new perspective on the role beaver could play in climate smart restoration. CNRA Director Wade Crowfoot gave voice to this evolution in a March interview in which he said:
“We’re engaged in a paradigm shift on beavers…recognizing (they) are natural engineers that can restore ecological function in our watersheds for a lot of important benefits. I am in active conversation with my colleague Chuck Bonham who leads (the Department of) Fish and Wildlife about how we lean forward and create stronger policies and programs to get beavers into places where they will be helpful. Beavers are a nature-based solution…we need to get beavers back to work…full employment for beavers!”
CDFW echoed this sentiment on International Beaver Day (April 7th) when they formally acknowledged the value of beaver on their website and even included links to the OAEC WATER Institute’s publication Beaver in California, Cultivating a Culture of Stewardship! We are so grateful both the CNRA and CDFW are taking such important steps to educate the public about beaver’s importance and to support co-existence and other beaver restoration efforts amongst their stakeholders.
WATER Institute and Bring Back the Beaver Campaign co-directors Kate Lundquist and Brock Dolman are beyond excited about these developments.
“After years of being mis-perceived as a ‘non-native nuisance,’ beaver are finally being given the acknowledgement they deserve! May this recognition support beaver in creating and sustaining critical wetland oases and reduce the impacts of climate change driven wildfires, floods and drought. We are so grateful for all of the efforts of those who support beaver restoration in California and look forward to working together as this new chapter of collaborative conservation unfolds.”
*It seems fitting that in the month that our iconic and now widely copycatted California Beaver Republic flag logo shown at the top of this post (designed by our favorite meme-generator, Brock Dolman) celebrates its 10th birthday, our long-held dreams to influence policy change at the state level are coming to fruition!