Photo by Bob Greenburg, Yellowstone NPS.
Last week, EPIC filed a rulemaking petition with the California Fish and Game Commission to ensure greater protections for beavers and to clarify existing legal rules concerning their trapping. Together on the petition were the Center for Biological Diversity, the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, and the Northcoast Environmental Center.
The proposed regulations would impact the 700+ beavers killed each year because of conflict with the human environment, and would require individuals to exhaust non-lethal methods to deter or diminish conflict before a permit could be issued that would allow their lethal removal. It further codifies federal law prohibiting the removal of beavers if that removal would harm a species protected by the Endangered Species Act.
The North American beaver (Castor canadensis) is native to California. Accordingly, the flora and fauna of the state have co-evolved with the beaver, developing unique and complex interwoven relationships. Beavers, however, are currently missing from much of their historic range and the effects of their absence are felt by the species that co-evolved with beavers. Beaver create freshwater habitats used by a variety of wildlife, including fish, birds, and other mammals. Their dams filter stream water, improve water quality, raise the water table, increase water storage, and repair eroded riparian areas.
“Beavers play an outsized role in creating healthy aquatic habitat,” said Tom Wheeler, Executive Director of EPIC. “Today’s rulemaking petition recognizes this important ecosystem role and affords greater protections for the beaver. We need more beavers, not more beaver trapping, to have healthy watercourses.”
Today’s petition will go before the Commission at the next scheduled hearing. There, the Commission will consider the petition, together with staff’s recommendation as well as the evaluation of the Department of Fish and Wildlife together with all public comments received. If the Commission finds that the petition lacks sufficient information or is functionally equivalent to a regulation change in the past 12 months, the Commission may deny the petition. If the Commission finds that the petition may be warranted, then it may add the petition to its rulemaking schedule for future consideration.