Ore. Coast project lets beavers restore habitat


by Keely Chalmers


Posted on January 9, 2013 at 7:02 AM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 9 at 10:44 AM

SEASIDE, Ore. -- They call themselves beaver believers, but don’t get them confused with the football fans.

The group is taking on a first-of-its-kind project to restore nature using 80 acres of farmland in Seaside, a natural wetland and rare Sitka spruce swamp.

Back in the 1940s, it was a horse farm owned by Hollywood actor Tab Hunter and Don Drysdale. The trees had been cleared and a creek diverted and cut off with a huge berm. The North Coast Land Conservancy now owns the land.

Instead of taking months, using heavy excavators and hundreds of thousands of dollars to build the dams necessary to restore the area, the group spent about $60,000 and six days to remove the berm. They are leaving the rest of the work to beavers in the area.

The group knew there was a beaver colony nearby and thought if they offered the animals a new home they would come. They did.

“We did just a few discreet actions moving just a little bit of dirt around, but designed and set up so the beavers will respond to what we did and improve on it and basically complete the project.” said project ecologist Doug Ray.

The group did some research and learned that beavers actually do a much better job than humans on habitat restoration.

“There have been studies that have shown that pools created by beaver dams hold significantly more fish than pools created by humans,” said Celeste Coulter, stewardship director for the North Coast Land Conservancy.

But not all want to leave it to the beavers. Dave Langlo lives next to the project site and worries the beaver dams will increase flooding on his property.

“We didn’t flood at all until they started introducing beavers back here,” explained Langlo.

But Ray said the beavers will actually do the opposite and reduce flooding, all while restoring nature in a uniquely natural way.