HELPING ALBERTANS PUT BEAVERS TO WORKCategory: 2020, Current, Grant, Major Project, Water
Alberta Riparian Habitat Management Society (Cows & Fish) in collaboration with Miistakis Institute
Nature-based solutions are needed for climate adaptability, flood and drought resiliency, secure water supplies, and to support community security from fire and weather extremes. Long-term beaver loss since the fur-trading era, combined with other human activities, has led to drier landscapes, more eroding streams, loss of fish habitat, and reduced watershed resiliency. Beavers have typically been seen as a problem in human landscapes, but are increasingly recognized as a mechanism to provide cleaner, more stable water supplies, restore streams, reduce fire risk, and ameliorate floods and drought. The long-term consequence of removing beavers and their dams means that we are not realizing the ecological, social, and economic benefits beavers provide when we coexist better.
Cows and Fish and Miistakis recognize the key role beavers play in riparian health and wetland creation. In their collaborative work, they are trying to address barriers to beaver coexistence, help landowners and managers understand the value of coexistence and offer tools to address the negative impacts of beaver-caused flooding and tree loss. This work requires large, multi-faceted, and additive approaches to provide meaningful solutions. There are economic and practical barriers: they will gather and share cost-benefit experience and research to help counties and landowners deal with repeat “problem” sites, moving from conventional methods like removing dams and killing beavers, compared to applying inexpensive techniques like pond levelers. There are social and perception barriers that we address using social science research, outreach, and regulatory advice, to help individuals and communities understand and deal with misconceptions. Lastly, they address knowledge and perceived ecological barriers, as they build and share knowledge tools. These include policy guidance and piloting demonstration sites to showcase the value of coexistence.
Success will include addressing more barriers, changing knowledge and perceptions, and getting more coexistence implemented on the ground.