Beaver sampling a twigPhoto by BMJ

— by Ann Loyola —

I opened the door to a large conference room full of men in uniforms. It was my first Upper Snake Beaver Coop meeting in Idaho Falls and I had no idea what to expect. About 22 forest rangers, wildlife and fisheries biologists, Fish & Game wardens, and others were passionately talking about Idaho’s dwindling beaver population and measures being taken to improve this particular habitat. My assignment was to remind everyone that EFI has specially built ponds available to help with translocation of Castor canadensis, and to learn about any changes in related regulations.

Translocation efforts, drainage studies, and outreach to property owners and trappers were all in the mix. I was stunned to learn that Idaho Fish & Game had invested in a long-term study of statewide watersheds that has resulted in a software program affectionately called BRAT (Beaver Restoration Assessment Tool). Every creek, pond, and river has been mapped, inspected, and evaluated based on numerous assessment points that focus on beaver habitat viability. Flow strength, seasonal factors, existing and historic lodges, roadways, and human interaction are only a few of the overlays that can be added to the BRAT map, illuminating watershed health, beaver activity, water rights issues, and much more.

A state biologist announced that trappers were experiencing a downturn in value for pelts with the current market returning about $11 per beaver. Idaho Fish & Game is offering $150 per beaver to trappers as long as they’re willing to live-trap them for translocation. What a terrific alternative for Idaho trappers!

As our state experts, involved nonprofits, and citizens work together to support expansion of this animal population, it’s become clear that beaver repopulation is a serious concern for restoring natural balance for many species, including humans. Through their mind-boggling engineering skills, beavers build dams that serve to repair and restore wetlands, river banks, and drainage flow.

I left the meeting with a broader knowledge of these humble tree-gnawers and comfort in knowing that teams are aggressively addressing the repopulation of the species.

Ann’s history with Earthfire began 20 years ago when she signed on as a part-time fundraising consultant. She was on-hand for the birth and official IRS nonprofit designation of Earthfire Institute. After 18 years serving as Marketing and Development Director at a rural hospital, she’s come back to Earthfire as Assistant Director.

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