CANYONVILLE — About 165 people from six different countries, 14 states and five Native American tribes came to Canyonville for the fifth annual State of the Beaver Conference at Seven Feathers Casino Resort this week to learn about beaver restoration and ecology.
Biology class students from South Umpqua and Days Creek high schools also attended the three-day event that concluded today.
“These young minds are what we really want to reach,” said Leonard Houston, conference coordinator and co-chair of the Beaver Advocacy Committee of the South Umpqua Rural Community Partnership. He added that education and community engagement play a big part in beaver restoration.
Houston spoke about the last 10 years of beaver advocacy and ecology in the Umpqua Basin.
The BAC has worked with Dwaine Jackson of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to trap beavers that were disruptive to landowners and to relocate them to parts of the Umpqua Basin where they could actively restore the area’s ecology.
When beavers create dams with the logs, branches and boulders the agencies and volunteers restore to the streams, the engineering animals subsequently create necessary habitat for fish.
“A lot of our dams are seasonal, they’re very small, but even with the little dams there are probably several thousand juvenile coho and steelhead in that pond,” Houston said. “We wanted to see what the presence or absence of these kinds of dams did for our coho, and they were actually increasing rearing habitats.”
Beaver ponds make for cooler, slower, more complex streams that are conducive to habitats the fish and a variety of species depend on, including red-legged frogs and pond turtles. Since the restoration projects began in 2006, Houston said the beaver advocates have also seen more eagles, otters and even 54 more species of songbirds in the area.
The beavers are often reintroduced at the top of the Umpqua headwaters, as what happens there can impact the entire watershed. After letting beavers go in Elk Creek, for example, the beavers built a dam that helped improve stream flow.
“One single little dam made out of grass, sticks and rocks restored stream flow for two-and-a-half miles of the river,” Houston said.
Even temporary dams can help the ecosystem. The willow branches from a washed out dam can float downstream and spread its roots to a new spot.
Melaney Dunne of the Coquille Watershed Association said she came to the conference to learn.
“I’m new to the area, so I was excited to attend and learn more about how beavers are managed in Oregon in general,” Dunne said, adding that the speakers are knowledgeable and passionate experts on the subject.
Jake Crawford, representing the Native Fish Society that aims to protect and restore wild native fish across the Northwest, said he was interested in beaver restoration for the benefit of coho salmon. He also came to see and listen to speaker Stan Petrowski, who volunteers with the Native Fish Society.
“He’s passionate about beavers as a tool for restoration, and I came to learn more about it and see Stan in action,” Crawford said.
For more information, visit stateofthebeaver.org.