California has enacted a new policy that recognizes the ecological benefits of beavers, encouraging landowners and agencies to log trees and install water flow management devices rather than kill beavers over land and property damage.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife said its new policy builds on its existing beaver management policies and lays the foundation for projects that harness beavers’ natural ability to protect biodiversity, restore habitat and build wildfire-resistant landscapes.
“It includes a process that enables beaver relocation as a recovery tool and a new non-lethal option. The policy also outlines a process to reduce the conflict of beaver depletion, prioritize the use of nonlethal deterrents whenever possible and ensure that lethal removal of depredation beavers is done humanely.”
“Beavers help restore habitat and improve water quality, restore ecosystem processes and increase wildfire resilience,” Director Charlton H. Bonham said in a statement. “This new policy formally recognizes beavers as a keystone species and ecosystem engineers in California. They are truly the Swiss Army Knife of native species due to their ability to provide many nature-based ecosystem services.”
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Bonham wrote in a previous op-ed that humans have spent millions trying to replicate beaver benefits, with beaver dams improving water quality, raising groundwater levels and reducing runoff.
“California’s next step is to expand partnerships with California native tribes, nongovernmental organizations, private landowners, state and federal agencies and restoration experts to lay the groundwork for implementing beaver recovery plans.” He explained.
The policy took effect in June and the department hired five environmental scientists dedicated to the initiative.
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Staff will provide technical assistance to landowners to prevent future beaver harm.
The state is also running pilot projects to relocate beavers to locations where they can be more beneficial. The program was funded last year by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration.
The policy follows similar initiatives by other western states, including Washington’s beaver relocation program.
Beavers were once widespread in California but, after years of trapping and removal, are found in small numbers in the northern and central parts of the Golden State.
It is not known how many beavers currently live in California, although they are not a protected species. According to SF Gate, beavers were reported in the San Francisco Bay Area last December.
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Landowners apply for hundreds of permits each year that usually allow them to kill animals.
Although they are not a protected species, they help create important habitat for endangered coho salmon and others.
Vicki Monroe, statewide conflict program coordinator for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, told The Associated Press that her office has long received requests from groups that want beavers, but until recently the state had no mechanism to legally relocate them.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.