Photo: Brock Evans, OAEC
California will spend big bucks on beavers to try to boost their numbers and reap some of the benefits—including slowing wildfire—these ecosystem engineers can provide.
After years of advocacy by beaver “believers,” the state has allocated funding for a beaver restoration program. The $1.67 million in license plate funds for fiscal year 2022-23 and $1.44 million the following year represents a new way of thinking about beaver management in California, says Kate Lundquist, of the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center. “Until recently, the Fish and Game Code has focused on recreational and commercial beaver trapping and permitting the depredation of nuisance beaver,” she explains. “I am excited that the Governor, the Natural Resources Agency, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife are recognizing beaver and process-based restoration as legitimate nature-based solutions that can restore our watersheds, recover listed species, and make our state more resilient to droughts, wildfires, and climate change.” Lundquist’s organization was one of more than 100 groups—including conservation and agricultural organizations, tribes, and others—that advocated for the funding allocation and for recognizing the benefits of beavers
The beaver restoration line item funds five new permanent CDFW positions and equipment for managing and monitoring the health of the state’s beavers, as well as relocating beavers as necessary.
Chad Dibble, Deputy Director with CDFW, is particularly excited about the potential for beavers to help stem wildfires. “Beavers are incredibly good at engineering dams that slow water down and spread it out,” he says. “This can help wet a larger area of land that is much greener and lush than your typical side channel growth in water-restricted areas.” That greening, says Dribble, can help stop wildfires moving through an area.