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Beavers Provide Free Labor To Build Salmon Habitat

They may be our state animal, but many people think beavers are a nuisance. They can cause flooding to parks, backyards, and farmland, and it was long believed that salmon couldn't pass through beaver dams. But now some scientists have found that beaver dams actually create a good habitat for young salmon. Beavers magnify salmon habitat "from that single thin blue line of a stream," says Will Harling, director of the Mid Klamath Watershed Council, and "we need to encourage beavers to build dams and to increase fish habitat where it's feasible." Harling works in Northern California, about 30 miles south of the Oregon border on a beaver-center watershed restoration plan.

The Mid Klamath Watershed Council works with ranchers, farmers, and Native American tribes to expand salmon habitat using beaver dams. "You can put in a series of posts, the beavers will come in and build off that line of posts, says Harling, "we can use the beavers as a tool to be strategic about where we want them to work."

How do they know where to put the posts? Harling says you just have to pay attention: "The beavers kind of tell us where to do work, and we just need to listen to their cues."

Beaver dams can also raise the water table in areas where they are built, which can help when water gets scarce. "We could and should look very closely at Beaver reintroduction," says Harling. "You know, given the amount of time we have to restore these salmon streams as the drought deepens, we need all the help we can get and beavers are one of the main helpers in this process."

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