Bring Back our Beavers!

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A North American beaver (Castor canadensis) munches on a branch. Photo: Grand Teton National Park Service.
A North American beaver (Castor canadensis) munches on a branch. Photo: Grand Teton National Park Service.

In November, EPIC submitted a rulemaking petition to the California Fish and Game Commission to re-write the trapping rules for beavers, giving California’s beavers (and the countless species that benefit from their presence) more protections against
thoughtless killing.

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.

Beavers 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. In short, beavers are nature’s engineers, forming good aquatic habitat for many species.

EPIC’s rulemaking petition does two primary things. First, it prohibits lethal removal of beavers or destroying beaver dams if that would result in the taking of a federally-protected species under the Endangered Species Act. This is not a change in the law—you are still prohibited under federal law from harming a listed species—but the rulemaking petition would codify this federal rule under state regs, making implementation and enforcement by state agencies more likely.

Secondly, the rule change would tighten regulations to prevent needless beaver deaths. In some regions of the state, beavers are regarded as a pest—they clog agricultural ditches, flood fields, and gnaw down trees. Currently, California’s lax regulations mean that these beavers are killed without much concern.

With a simple application, beavers can be “removed,” even when there are ways to remove the harm to humans but save the beavers. (Anti-clog devices can keep culverts clear, flow control devices can stop problem flooding, and wire-wrapping trees can stop beaver damage.) Under the current rules, a landowner is under no obligation to try non-lethal methods of dealing with the problem.

The changes proposed are part of EPIC’s larger campaign aimed at changing the legal landscape to facilitate beaver restoration throughout the state. Earlier this year, EPIC successfully forced the federal wildlife-killing agency (misleadingly called “Wildlife Services”) to stop killing beavers that might impact endangered species.
Now, we are tackling trapping permits.

In the future, EPIC will take on rules that make beaver relocation prohibitively costly. In our efforts, we are joined by a whole squad of beaver believers, including the Northcoast Environmental Center and the Friends of Del Norte.


Thank you Rob!

Rob DiPerna in his natural habitat—wilderness. Photo courtesy of EPIC.
Rob DiPerna in his natural habitat—wilderness. Photo courtesy of EPIC.

In September, Rob DiPerna, EPIC’s long-time private forestry reform advocate, retired from EPIC. For over ten years, Rob DiPerna lent his big, beautiful brain to EPIC—and we were successful because of it. Rob has a knack for remembering the smallest details even decades later. (A typical conversation. Me: Hey Rob, do you remember anything about demographic performance standards in the PALCO HCP? Rob: Well, on page 4 on the top right it says….”) The office was way more fun with his presence. Rob was always full of Rob-isms, his favorite sayings, typically drawn from the pop culture references of his youth.

Rob served two terms of duty at EPIC, first in the early 2000’s and again for the past decade. In that time, he became California’s preeminent expert on the Forest Practice Act and Rules, helping individuals and groups across the state understand the law and their opportunities to shape it. At EPIC, he was a walking-talking encyclopedia of all forest-related topics. He was a prolific writer and committed activist. He earned the respect of individuals of all stripes—from timber industry bosses to EarthFirst! treesitters to government bureaucrats—because of his expertise and his professionalism.

Rob is irreplaceable because he is so wonderfully unique. No one can match his subject matter knowledge or his kindness as a friend. We will miss him in the office, but are glad to know that we will likely run into him in the forest. Congrats on your retirement, Rob, and happy trails from everyone at EPIC.