Beavers and People and Fish, Oh My: Exploring beaver coexistence flow device innovation

Year: 2023
Presenter/s: Elyssa Kerr
Symposium Session: 2023 - 02 One Species to Restore them All: Beaver-based Watershed Restoration
Topics covered: adaptive management and monitoring, beavers, community involvement, fish passage, instream structure (culvert/bridge/dam), and urban


In urban and rural environs, beavers working to engineer ecosystems often encounter pushback from humans. Homes, roads, and other infrastructure that occupy historic floodplains and wetlands are particularly susceptible to impacts when beavers work on stream restoration of their own. While it is widely accepted that beaver ponds benefit native fish species, water quality, and water quantity, our human-modified stream systems and declining salmon runs raise a growing number of questions about how humans can best coexist with aquatic habitats. Beaver coexistence flow devices have been a happy compromise to balance the needs of people, beavers, and the other animals that call beaver ponds home. In order to retain more beavers on the landscape and support ecosystem resilience, Beavers Northwest has implemented flow devices and other coexistence practices across a wide geographic region in Washington State. Beavers Northwest has worked closely with regulators and other organizations to develop best management practices for maintaining natural processes that occur at beaver dams including fish passage. However, poorly worded regulations impede implementation of traditional flow devices in some places. In this talk, we will explore the uneven regulatory landscape in Washington that impacts beaver coexistence implementation and dive into the best practices and innovations for flow devices to meet the varied needs of people, beavers, and fish. These adaptive management strategies support beaver powered restoration, serving as vital tools for any practitioners that have encountered wanted or unwanted beaver impacts. The examples presented will be widely transferrable to other regions working to address the balance between coexistence and human modified systems while maintaining natural processes.