After over 15 years of the Bring Back the Beaver Campaign’s efforts to gather supporters around the benefits of beaver and Process-Based Restoration, we are pleased to see that two of California’s resource agencies as well as the office of the governor are finally recognizing beaver as a nature-based solution to climate change. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the California Natural Resources Agency and Governor Gavin Newsom have recently come out with public endorsements of beaver with potential funding forthcoming, largely due to the results of the OAEC WATER Institute’s strategic and direct advocacy in Sacramento over the past two years.
The California Natural Resources Agency just released the California Natural and Working Lands Climate Smart Strategy that establishes California’s approach to delivering on the state’s climate change goals through action in the natural and working lands sector. The Strategy was crafted as part of the world-wide 30×30 initiative which aims to have 30% of land in conservation by the year 2030 and will drive action across California on biodiversity, climate, and equitable access to the outdoors. In the Strategy, there are two mentions of beaver benefits to riparian forest ecosystems. The report goes as far as to say that a “multi-benefit appropriate solution” for mountain meadow restoration is beaver reintroduction! Needless to say, we are thrilled to see beaver included amongst the many good ideas being put forward by the agency.
On International Beaver Day on April 7th, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife 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! While the WATER Institute’s engagements with the Department thus far have largely centered on policy change, specifically urging a decrease in depredation permits, (we did not have anything to do with their decision on which resources to include on their website) we are heartened to see them providing more information on co-existence with beaver for their stakeholders.
The real frosting on the cake is Governor Gavin Newsom’s announcement last week of the May Revision of the Fiscal Year 2022-23 state budget that proposes a new Beaver Restoration Program to be run by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife! The funding requested by Governor Newsom is $1.67 million in Fiscal Year 2022-23, and $1.44 million in Fiscal Year 2023-24 and ongoing (read: every year) to “fund and support the implementation a beaver restoration program within the Department.” These funds would finance 5 new permanent staff environmental scientists to implement the state’s new Beaver Restoration Program, as well as equipment needs, etc. After so many years of tireless work trying to convince policy makers of the benefits of beaver, it is so gratifying to finally see quotes like these included as part of the Governor’s 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 known for their ability to build dams and change waterways – but the ecosystem benefits provided to other native species in the process may be less recognized. It might be odd, but beavers are an untapped, creative climate solving hero that helps prevent the loss of biodiversity facing California. In the intermountain West, wetlands, though they are present on just 2 percent of total land area, support 80 percent of biodiversity.
Beavers are remarkable at creating more resilient ecosystems – and therefore thinking through approaches to maximize their unique skills throughout California will benefit our landscapes and help drive more cost-efficient restoration.
This proposal will allow the Department 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 specific to reported damage due to known beaver activity. The team will coordinate with other agencies and departments to prioritize beaver restoration projects.
The WATER Institute is still working diligently with its co-petitioners at the Environmental Information Protection Center and the Center for Biological Diversity to get the Department to develop a rigorous guidance document for how they issue beaver depredation permits to landowners. After filing a petition in 2019 to change regulation language, the Department is due to release this guidance document soon. The petitioners are advocating that landowners be required to try co-existence measures and, if present, protect endangered species before receiving a permit to kill the beaver with whom they are having the conflict.
WATER Institute and Bring Back the Beaver Campaign co-directors Kate Lundquist and Brock Dolman are excited about these developments. “After years of being deemed a ‘non-native nuisance,’ beaver are finally being given the recognition 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.”