How a group of beavers prevented a wildfire and saved California a million dollars


A dry floodplain in Place County – just north of Sacramento, California – was in perfect condition to fuel the wildfires. It was 2014, and California was in the middle of its worst drought in decades. The floodplain was full of dry brush and devoid of moisture. The state’s fire prevention and environmental workers were working desperately to mitigate potential sources of forest fuels wherever they could. Environmentalists – faced with a dangerously dry floodplain and a price tag of $ 1 million to $ 2 million for a large construction project to fix the site – have done something surprising. They called the beavers.

Thanks to the introduction of industrious flat-tailed mammals, the site was restored to a vibrant swampy floodplain four years earlier than expected, and at a significantly cheaper price.

The Sacramento Bee spoke with researchers involved in fur betting to protect the state and revitalize the land.

Lynnette Batt, director of conservation for the Placer Land Trust, which owns and maintains the land where the floodplain is located, said The Sacramento Bee that she was amazed by the “brilliant” success of the project.

“It went from dry grasslands… to totally vegetated vegetation, to trees looming up, to willows, to wetland plants of all types, to various winding stream channels on about 60 acres of floodplain.” said Ms Batt.

In the end, the Doty Ravine project only cost $ 58,000, which was used to set the stage for the beavers to come and do what they are doing.

Damon Ciotti, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service restoration biologist who led the project, estimated that it would take about a decade for beavers to return the dry land to the area’s streams, but the creatures have exploded his expectations. By the third year, the water was back in the floodplain.

The success of the project sparked a number of other projects using beavers for land revitalization across California.

Ms Batt said federal programs are starting to take this into account and offer training on using beavers for wildfire mitigation, and said universities and nonprofit programs are also interested.

Beavers have essentially evolved to be nature’s engineers, transforming their landscape to suit their needs and to protect them from predators.

Emily Fairfax, assistant professor of environmental science and resource management at California State University Channel Island, said The Sacramento Bee that beavers are like “a chicken nugget walking across the landscape for predators”.

She said beavers, although they are fatty animals that are generally slow on land, are fast in water and use dams to divert streams to create ponds and wetlands where they can. better survive.

Beavers were widespread throughout North America, although their population was small until the early 1900s, as they were heavily hunted for their fur.

Once the desire for beaver hats and coats waned, the population began to rebound. Today there are between 15 and 25 million beavers in North America.

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