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Restoration Update…Summer 2020

Published June 18th, 2020 in Restoration, UW Blogs

Stan Petrowski

Declarations of Drought

Regional County Commissioners in the Pacific northwest are appealing to their respective State governors to ratify declarations of drought for their counties. Indeed, during a recent presentation by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) that I attended (via zoom) it was clear that we are once again way below average for precipitation this year. My own weather station indicates we have received only 50% of average rainfall for the year and from the projected drought maps it is evident that the long-term, above average dry that we are experiencing will continue. A well informed acquaintance of mine in discussion with an agency hydrologist was told that they considered our bioregion to be in a 30 to 40 year drought cycle. God forbid!

Recently, the power company meter reader commented on the plethora of dead and dying conifer trees in the surrounding national forest. There are many thousands of them in every direction outside the windows of my house. Fortunately I live in a Firewise community that is cooperating with the Federal agencies treating the surrounding National Forest and private property inholdings for fire resilience.

It’s Time To Make A Change: A Restoration Action Alert

Dr. Suzanne Fouty, PhD hydrologist recently retired from the US Forest Service (USFS), called to say that she is keenly aware of the drought cycle especially east of the Cascade Mountains where she spent most of her career. I’ve known Suzanne since the early 2000’s. We met at an regional American Fisheries Society meeting where I happened to be giving a presentation on beaver ecology. My topic was our need to restore beaver populations for Endangered Species Act (ESA) listed salmonid fisheries recovery. She was the first to let me know that the State of Oregon has designated beaver a nuisance predator species! I’m still in a state of shock 20 years later that it is still the case. Suzanne asked me to work with her and a handful of dedicated conservation enthusiasts to embark on a campaign to bring about a strategic change desperately needed in the beaver’s status in the State. Embark we did. In a phenomenally short period of time, an impressive list of scientists, agency professionals, and academics from across the State of Oregon, have signed on to our letter of request to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission (OFWC).

A similar letter crafted for conservation organizations was signed on in short order by 30 of its representatives. Retired Forest Supervisors, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and National Park employees have signed too. Professors, climatologists and a significant array of professional doctorates from a broad spectrum of disciplines added their names. Even former Secretary of State Bill Bradbury has signed.

What Are We Asking For?

Here is a copy of the letter we have sent to various Federal agency managers as a “heads up” on our request.

Dear XXX

We wanted to give you a heads-up that a citizens’ led effort is underway to end commercial and recreational beaver trapping and hunting on federally managed public lands in Oregon, including: National Forests, BLM managed areas, National Grasslands, National Monuments, National Parks, and USFWS Refuges. We have sent a similar heads-up to Mr. Jose Linares, BLM OR/WA Acting State Director, Mr. Paul Henson, USFWS Director of Oregon Fish and Wildlife Field Office, Mr. Michael Tehan, Assistant Regional Administrator, NMFS West Coast Regional Office, and Mr. Kim Kratz, Assistant Regional Administrator, Oregon Washington Coastal Office, NMFS West Coast Regional Office.

This request has broad support from citizens, and the scientific and conservation communities and it addresses the goals and objectives of the 2016 Oregon Conservation Strategy, the Governor’s 100-Year Water Vision, and ODFW’s mission statement. Furthermore, it helps bring ODFW policy related to management of beavers on these federally managed public lands into compliance with best available science. The request to end trapping will come before the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission at their meeting on June 12, 2020. It is on the agenda and will go to a vote.

You are all aware of the many benefits beavers bring to water, fish and wildlife habitat, and climate change related concerns and therefore to our cities, towns and ranching and agricultural communities. In the case of climate change, the amount of atmospheric carbon captured and stored will increase as expanding wetlands and wet meadows extract carbon from the air and store it in the abundant riparian vegetation above ground, in the roots and decaying matter below ground, and in the beaver ponds. This natural process is currently an underutilized climate change response strategy.

While beaver can provide a wide range of ecosystem benefits, they can sometimes bring challenges such as blocked culverts and flooded roads. However, there are non-lethal solutions to these conflicts that allow beavers to remain and continue to contribute to water, fish, and wildlife as they restore stream function and expand the structural complexity, distribution, and abundance of riparian and wetland habitat types. The citizens’ request being brought before the Commission would not affect the Agency’s ability to lethally manage beaver, since OAR 635-050-0070 applies only to commercial and recreational harvests. Our hope is, however, that federal agencies in Oregon will take advantage of expanding beaver populations and work with local watershed councils, Soil and Water Conservation districts, and NRCS to find the funds and knowledge to successfully implement non-lethal solutions.

We understand there is not much time between now and the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission’s meeting on June 12, but should you be interested in providing input to the Commission we would certainly encourage you to do so. Access to the request materials submitted to the Commission will be available to the public by close of business Friday May 29thathttps://www.dfw.state.or.us/agency/commission/minutes/ as well as the letters of support from the scientific and conservation communities. Should you or your staff have questions with regard to this request to the Commission, please feel free to contact us.

Sincerely,

Robert L. Beschta
Professor Emeritus
Forest Ecosystems and Society
Oregon State University
robert.beschta@oregonstate.edu

Stanley J. Petrowski
Umpqua Watersheds Board member and Restoration Committee Chair
stanley@umpquawatersheds.org

Paul Engelmeyer
Land Manager
Portland Audubon Society and The Wetlands Conservancy
pengelmeyer@peak.org

The Tidal Wave of Pushback

Needless to say even though the request has not formally been reviewed by the Commission the cat is out of the bag. Opposition from across the country is pouring in to the commission via email and phone calls. Politicians are being contacted. Agency managers are being called. A veritable tidal wave of opposition is swelling from across the United States from trappers and anti-conservation individuals and groups. Won’t you please consider supporting this effort and provide a counter voice to this knee jerk reaction to a common sense solution to our drought situation. Beaver, as ecosystem engineers, have acted as beneficial mitigators of flood and drought in the natural world for ages. We are not proposing the end of beaver trapping as a management tool on public or private lands. Our ask is that they be allowed to provide their ancient unique benefits to the headwaters of Oregon’s Cascade Mountains. We need to irrigate. We need to drink and cleanse. Where there is no water there is no life. There’s very little conflict between beaver and private lands in our headwaters, wildernesses, and parks. Where there is conflict we have viable solutions.

Letters of Support and Comments

We’ve already sent our requests to the Commission. That doesn’t mean you can’t chime in at this time. As aforementioned, the Fish and Wildlife Commission doesn’t formally vote until June 12th. Your voice is a critical component to restoring the profoundly important part of our ecosystems. The Commission can be contacted via email here: odfw.commission@state.or.us Information related to the Commission can be found here: https://www.dfw.state.or.us/agency/commission/

Comment and add your voice of reason to the fray.

Be wise. Stay strong. Stay healthy.

 

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