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Victory! EPIC Petition Yields New Protections for Beavers

North American beaver (Castor canadensis). Photo by kwiktor / Getty Images via Canva Pro.

New protections are on the way for beavers, thanks to a petition filed by EPIC and our allies at the Occidental Art & Ecology Center and the Center for Biological Diversity.

Beavers rock. Beaver are nature’s engineers, creating 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 are so important that the National Marine Fisheries Service included beaver restoration as a goal in the recovery plan for the Southern Oregon/Northern California coastal coho salmon. It’s not just fish either. Beavers are also known to benefit willow flycatchers, least Bell’s vireo, western pond turtles, and California red-legged frogs.

But beavers have had it rough in the Golden State. Early fur trappers nearly wiped out all beavers from the state before the California Gold Rush and still today beavers are missing from the majority of their historic range in the state, including in the North Coast. Despite this, California provided very little protection for beavers. Because they are born to build dams, they can sometimes be a nuisance to property owners concerned with flooding and tree damage. Lax rules have meant that California allowed more than 700 beavers to be killed annually in the state through “depredation permits” issued by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

In the past, it was too easy to receive a depredation permit. In 2019, EPIC and allies filed a rulemaking petition to the California Fish and Game Commission to protect beavers. In response to EPIC’s petition, the Department of Fish and Wildlife has worked to craft internal Department policy that accomplishes the same purpose. The new guidance, signed on June 5, requires a case-by-case examination of “problem” beavers and empowers Department staff to require non-lethal alternatives to killing beavers. Similar policy directives have been successfully used to help reduce conflicts between mountain lions and humans in Southern California. EPIC’s petition before the Commission is still active and we are going to test how the Department implements its new policy directive.

Viva la beaver!


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