Due to urban growth, waterfowl habitats and populations in the Pacific Northwest have decreased dramatically over the past few decades – but a group called The Lands Council has found an age-old solution to this modern problem - beavers. Since the last Ice Age, Beavers have been the predominant manager of streams and wetlands throughout North America.
The Lands Council has teamed up with the Washington State Department of Ecology to reintroduce beaver into once inhabited streams, and let them do what they do best – create dams. The natural work of these busy animals has an immensely positive impact on bird populations by creating wetland habitat that waterfowl use for nesting and brood-rearing habitat, and as stopover sites during migration.
This past year, the Land’s Council was able to monitor vegetation and water quality at countless sites – and relocated three beaver families (17 beavers in all) to new homes in the Colville National Forest. And the effectiveness of this natural plan toward restoration has been gaining attention in some very impressive places – with the work featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal and in a national broadcast of NPR’s Living on Earth. “We’re excited about the national buzz. More and more people are contacting us,” said Watershed Programs Director Amanda Parrish.
But the Land’s Council has no intention of resting on their laurels – they realize these strides are just beginning. They devote much of their time to presenting to local tribes and speaking at academic conferences with the goal of making sure that the science behind beaver ecology is translated into policy through the development of a statewide beaver management plan.
Their latest effort, Project S.U.S.T.A.I.N., engages the interest and enthusiasm of students to get involved in hands-on, science-based educational activities geared toward sustainability and restoration. Through fieldtrips, young people get to witness the effects and changes that the beavers have had on the surrounding ecosystems firsthand. These types of activities not only to increase the student’s knowledge and skills – but also help to instill a heightened sense of environmental stewardship. It’s a unique and fun approach to learning.
The SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund has supported the organization since 2010 - and sees The Lands Council’s work as an exciting example of people pursuing smart ways to manage and restore our natural resources.