Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dam Good News About Martinez Beavers

By Nate Seltenrich
Wed, Jan 26, 2011 at 4:55 PM

Beavers: Nature’s wunderkind. That’s the message likely to be heralded at the State of the Beaver conference, scheduled for February 2-4 — only a week after President Obama’s State of the Union address: coincidence? — in the hallowed halls of Seven Feathers Convention Center and Resort in Canyonville, Oregon. There, the story of the East Bay’s most famous beavers — those who took up residence in downtown Martinez’s Alhambra Creek in late 2006 and have since become the focus of much civic conversation and controversy — will be shared as an example of how the crafty rodents can play a critical role in reviving aquatic ecosystems.

Martinez’s Heidi Perryman, president and founder of local beaver advocacy group Worth a Dam, will deliver a 45-minute presentation titled, appropriately, “Can Urban Beavers Be Worth a Dam?” It will address, Perryman said, the extent to which Martinez’s beavers (and their Alhambra Creek dam) have created habitat for a variety of native species. Since the beavers moved in, she said, otter, mink, wood ducks, herons, and hooded mergansers (a small, fish-eating duck) have followed, taking advantage of the wetlands and slow-moving waters created by the beavers.

“All this new wildlife, because of habitat the beavers created,” Perryman said. “I’ll be talking about the ways beavers in an urban wetland can be restorative.” Beyond birds, beavers have been shown to also be beneficial to salmon by providing spawning habitat. Beavers have even been credited with fighting global warming: The wetlands they create through damming can be capable of significant carbon sequestration.

The downtown Martinez beaver population is currently comprised of a dad, a two-year-old juvenile, and three nine-month old babies, called kits. Mom was euthanized last June after suffering a life-threatening injury. But the beavers’ bigger family includes thousands of Martinez residents who’ve accepted the critters as their own. Perryman’s presentation at the State of the Beaver conference will throw some scientific weight behind that sentimental connection. “It’s a pretty exciting time to find all this research about how good beavers are,” she said. “Beavers are good for just about everything that you can think of.” Dam well said.

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