New State Policy Recognizes Ecological Value of Beavers
By the California Department of Fish and Wildlife
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has implemented a new policy recognizing the ecological benefits of beavers while mitigating conflict over damage to land and property (depredation). CDFW’s new policy builds upon its existing beaver management policies and lays the groundwork for projects that harness beavers’ natural ability to help protect biodiversity, restore habitat and build wildfire-resilient landscapes. This includes a process that enables beaver relocation as a restoration tool and a new non-lethal option. The policy also outlines a process to mitigate beaver depredation conflict, prioritizes the use of nonlethal deterrents whenever possible and ensures that lethal removal of depredation beavers is done in a humane manner.
The new policy, signed by CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham on June 5, is available on CDFW’s beaver web page. Here are a few key take-aways related to depredation permits:
- CDFW shall document all nonlethal measures taken by the landowner to prevent damage prior to requesting a depredation permit.
- CDFW shall require implementation of feasible nonlethal corrective actions by the landowner to prevent future beaver damage.
- CDFW shall determine whether a property is located within the range of listed species and add permit terms and conditions to protect native wildlife.
- CDFW shall continue to prioritize issuance of depredation permits if it determines that an imminent threat to public safety exists, such as flooding or catastrophic infrastructure damage.
“Beavers help improve habitat restoration and water quality, restore ecosystem processes and bolster wildfire resiliency,” said Director Bonham. “This new policy formally recognizes beavers as a keystone species and ecosystem engineers in California. They are truly the Swiss army knife of native species due to their ability to provide so many nature-based ecosystem services.”
CDFW is committed to ensuring that humans and beavers can safely coexist when and where possible, and continues to prioritize communication, staff training, public education and outreach to reduce human/beaver conflict. CDFW staff will provide technical assistance to landowners to prevent future occurrence of beaver damage. In 2020, the CDFW Human-Wildlife Conflict Program created a comprehensive online Human-Wildlife Conflict Toolkit that includes accessible resources with logistically and economically feasible options to help property owners prevent damage due to beaver activity.
“The department’s new Beaver Restoration Program is up and running with the hiring of five environmental scientists dedicated to the program,” continued Bonham. “This is such an exciting time for ecosystem restoration and CDFW is so grateful to the Governor and the Legislature for supporting this new program with funding in Fiscal Year 2022-23.”
On May 24, a consortium of advocates representing the Beaver Policy Working Group and the Placer Land Trust hosted a field trip for legislators and agency representatives including CDFW to Doty Ravine in Placer County to see beaver restoration at work. The field trip served to highlight the state’s Natural and Working Lands Climate Smart Strategy (Executive Order N-82-20) in action. The California Natural Resources Agency’s YouTube page features an interview from the field trip (Video) with CDFW Beaver Restoration Program Manager Valerie Cook.
On May 25, CDFW hosted its first virtual informational meeting (webinar) to celebrate the formal launch of the new Beaver Restoration Program. More than 250 people including media outlets attended this webinar to learn more about this historic program. Program staff will collaborate with diverse partners to translocate beavers into watersheds where their dams can help restore hydrologic connectivity, ecological processes and natural habitat. A recording of the webinar is available on CDFW’s beaver web page under the “Beaver-assisted Restoration” tab.