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People of the Pacific: Cascade Forest Conservancy

This black and white photo shows the craggy peaks of a mountain range, with white clouds drifting above them.

This is post 1 of 2 in "People of the Pacific."

In this series, we’re profiling the faces of conservation in the Pacific region, many of whom are partnering with us to create a connected Pacific landscape. Follow along to learn about Environment for the Americas, Cascade Forest Conservancy, and more. All posts in this series…

Editor’s note: We commissioned this guest blog post from Shiloh Halsey, Conservation Science Director at Cascade Forest Conservancy (CFC). CFC’s mission is to protect and sustain forests, streams, wildlife and communities in the heart of the Cascades through conservation, education and advocacy. Wildlands Network looks forward to continued opportunities to work together to create a connected Pacific landscape and showcase the great work of our partner organizations.  

CFC has been working with Cowlitz Tribe on a multi-year beaver reintroduction project to restore beaver populations and aquatic habitat in the southern Washington Cascades. Over the last century, beavers were nearly driven to extinction by trapping, but they have made a comeback in some areas of the western United States due to reduced economic incentives and modern regulations on trapping seasons and equipment.

Close-up of a beaver swimming with a stick in his or her mouth.
American beaver. Photo: William C. Gladish

In the southern Washington Cascades (largely encompassed by the Gifford Pinchot National Forest), there are many areas once, but no longer, occupied by beavers. Historically, beavers helped create and maintain aquatic systems in many parts of the forest, and without their existence, these areas are more at risk of negative climate impacts. Beavers are effective aquatic restoration engineers, able to increase channel complexity, create in-stream habitat, stabilize hydrologic regimes, and capture fine sediment.

To determine optimal release sites to reintroduce beavers, Cascade Forest Conservancy created a region-wide beaver habitat model this year and has been working closely with Forest Service specialists and local biologists who have site-specific information and recommendations. Also, to verify the results of the beaver habitat model and to better understand current occupancy and habitat features, CFC has been leading habitat assessment trips throughout the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and surrounding lands.

A wet, dark brown beaver sits in murky water with a dirt wall in the background.
American beaver. Photo: John Davis

Volunteers are essential for this beaver reintroduction project. Teams of citizen stewards have participated in habitat assessment trips and have collected on-the-ground data that we’re using to prioritize reintroduction efforts and overall restoration plans. CFC has also been working with local schools and engaging middle school and high school students in the habitat assessment work. Volunteers and students have also taken part in riparian planting, which increases the amount of beaver forage in future reintroduction sites as well as improving biodiversity, strengthening bank stability, and increasing stream shade and future in-stream wood.

Once the final suite of sites are determined, CFC and Cowlitz Tribe will begin the process of acquiring nuisance beavers from surrounding lands and translocating them to release sites in and around the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. In between capture and release, beavers will be housed for brief periods of time at holding facilities to pair males and females (the beavers will have a higher rate of success as a pair). Cowlitz Tribe and CFC will be carrying out most of the actual reintroduction steps in 2019 but will be doing a set of pilot releases in fall 2018.

More posts from People of the Pacific

  1. People of the Pacific: Cascade Forest Conservancy, August 9, 2018
  2. People of the Pacific: Susan Bonfield and Blanca Lopez, August 13, 2018

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