Low-tech stream repair for drought resilience: western USA

Compendium Volume 2 Number 2 January 2019 r.1

As the hydrological benefits that beaver dams bring to streams and surrounding landscapes becomes better known, ranchers, wildlife managers and researchers are increasingly working together to repair streams by building Beaver Dam Analogs (BDAs). This method is attractive to ranchers searching for ways to manage drought and to irrigate their pastures reliably. In the spring, snowmelt or heavy rainfall can happen quickly, leaving parched landscapes where it’s needed as it rushes downstream into a river and out of sight. Beaver dams slow water down.  The human-made BDAs create pools and rehydrate the landscape, ultimately attracting beavers to return, recolonize the streams, and keep the dams in good repair.

“The longer that we can keep that [water] on the landscape, we increase the productivity of those plants. And [that] ultimately leads to more drought resilience, right? These sponges fill up with water. It’s like putting money in the piggy bank for those lean times,” said Jeremy Maestas, an ecologist with the department of agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. As part of the Sage Grouse Initiative to repair sagebrush habitat, NRCS hosts training workshops throughout the region from Oregon to Montana to Utah on how build the small, porous, beaver-inspired dams in streams.

Beavers: an unlikely solution to Western drought: http://www.wyomingpublicmedia.org/post/beavers-unlikely-solution-western-drought#stream/0 

SGI workshop explores ‘cheap and cheerful’ riparian restoration to benefit wildlife and ranchers: https://www.sagegrouseinitiative.com/enhancing-habitat-resilience-mimicking-beavers-cheap-cheerful-restoration/ 

For the full PDF version of the compendium issue where this article appears, visit Compendium Volume 2 Number 2 January 2019 r.1