Beavers in the Landscape

Beavers in the Landscape title=
Beavers in the Landscape
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Event Date: 
Saturday, January 21, 2023 - 18:30 to 20:30

Santa Barbara Permaculture Network Presents
Beavers in the Landscape

An Evening with Dr. Emily Fairfax & Cooper Lienhart
Saturday, January 21, 2023
6:30 – 8:30pm FREE

Santa Barbara Community Arts Center (SBCAW)
631 Garden St, Santa Barbara CA 93101

Beaver dams are gaining popularity as a low-tech, low-cost strategy to build climate resiliency at the landscape scale. Emily Fairfax

Join Santa Barbara Permaculture Network for an evening with Dr. Emily Fairfax, PhD and Cooper Lienhart as they share their work & passion for beaver, a keystone species that until very recently was vastly underrated as the ecosystem restoration hero it is.

Beavers are native to North America (Castor canadensis), in populations in the millions, before the European fur trade decimated their numbers almost to extinction. They are responsible for a landscape most early settlers and farmers took for granted--- deep soils built up over centuries with ponds & wetlands they created. These wetlands function as natural sponges, trapping silt, making them excellent carbon sinks, that help with climate change.

With extended droughts and catastrophic fires plaguing California and the West, in recent years Dr. Fairfax began focusing her research on the impact of beaver on wildfires. Where beaver and their dams and pond complexes are allowed to flourish, water tables naturally rise, and keep the surrounding vegetation and soils hydrated. Dr. Fairfax’s observations on the positive aspects beavers have in controlling wildfires with the wetlands they create, prompted her to coin the phrase “Smokey the Beaver”

As a part of the evening, Cooper Lienheart, a recent environmental engineering grad of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, will share how as a student he became interested in beaver. Like many young people Lienhart became increasingly concerned about climate change, and learned about wetlands and their ability to act as carbon sinks sequestering carbon, and the role of beaver in creating these wetlands.

Of course beavers and human settlements are often at odds. But in communities like Martinez, CA, where a popular Beaver Festival takes place every year, they have demonstrated these conflicts can be managed with clever strategies, good for the beaver and the community. And with these kind of beaver management strategies come new jobs, especially good for the next generation, many who yearn for positive livelihoods.

Cooper Lienhart, after graduating from Cal Poly SLO, enrolled in the Beaver Institute, learning beaver coexistence techniques, and with three organizations in Northern California, has trained in building “Beaver Analog Dams”, structures that encourage beavers to start building dams in advantageous locations. Lienhart has worked with the Tulalip tribe in Washington State learning beaver relocation techniques.

Dr. Emily Fairfax is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and Resource Management at California State University Channel Islands. Dr. Fairfax double majored in Chemistry and Physics as an undergraduate at Carleton College, later earning a PhD in Geological Sciences from the University of Colorado Boulder. She uses a combination of remote sensing and field work to research how beaver activity can create drought and fire resistant patches in the landscape under a changing climate.

The event takes place on Saturday, January 21, 6:30-8:30pm, at the Santa Barbara Community Arts Center (SBCAW), 631 Garden St, Santa Barbara CA 93101. For more info contact, 805-962-2571,


Hosted by Santa Barbara Permaculture Network
Co-sponsors: San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, & Ojai Beaver Brigades

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