SLO Beaver Brigade: Creating the Conditions for Beavers to Thrive
The Mission of the SLO Beaver Brigade is to educate our County on the benefits of beavers to our watersheds and to create the political, social and physical conditions for beavers to thrive here. This includes educating our community and policy makers, restoration and cleanup of our waterways, and celebrating the diversity of life already living in our watersheds.
Our Mission is infused with our Values: Collaboration, Biodiversity & Nature, Service, Wonder, Health & Resilience, FUN, Connection
The image to the left shows the entire Morro Bay Watershed with the creeks highlighted to show their dissolved oxygen levels (credit: Morro Bay National Estuary Program). Any water that falls within that orange perimeter will drain into the creeks and eventually into Morro Bay.
Environmental challenges facing Morro Bay:
- Sedimentation into the bay
- Sea water intrusion
- Incised, degraded creeks
- Steelhead trout facing extinction
- Poor water quality in some tributary creeks
Environmental benefits beavers can bring:
- Catch and accrue sediment in creeks, reversing process of erosion
- Increase freshwater infiltration into groundwater table
- Hold more water in creeks year round
- Improve habitat for fish, as well as plants and other animals, thus increasing biodiversity.
- Improve water quality by filtering water through their dams
- Increase natural carbon sequestration
- Improve fire resiliency
The health of Morro Bay is directly connected to the health of the creeks that feed it. However, native beavers that stewarded these creeks for millions of years were hunted completely out of the area in the 1800’s for their valuable fur. This is one of the main reasons why currently many of the tributary creeks leading into Morro Bay are incised and are delivering sediment and pollutants right into the bay. This is the leading factor for why the bay is filling with sediment and why millions of dollars are spent every year on dredging.
The good news, however, is that beaver dams naturally catch sediment and reverse the process of erosion. If these tributary creeks were filled with beaver dams or human made Beaver Dam Analogs (BDAs) there could be a huge impact on the amount of sediment entering the bay every year. Furthermore, the creeks would be able to hold more water, recharge groundwater, and provide better habitat for amphibians, mammals, and fish such as Steelhead Trout.
“Steelhead in the Morro Bay watershed face many challenges including climate change, predation by non-native pikeminnow, and limited access to high-quality habitat.” -Morro Bay National Estuary Program - September 9, 2023
How do we prepare our watershed for beavers to return safely and sustainably?
- Education: We at the SLO Beaver Brigade believe that education is the first and most important step in changing how we interact with our environment. And there is no better way to learn than by getting out into the beaver habitat yourself! That is why we offer 2 free educational tours of beaver habitat every month. We also give presentations, organize public events, and we would love to bring our education to schools. Come on a tour of beaver habitat and feel for yourself all of the benefits that beavers bring to our lands and waters!
- Stewardship: One of the best ways to strengthen our relationship to our waters is through stewardship. That is why we lead monthly river/creek stewardship workdays including trash clean-ups, invasive removals, citizen science and more! Most of these events take place where the beavers are in Atascadero, but we are hoping to expand our reach, so please let us know if there are any stewardship opportunities in the Morro bay or Los Osos areas by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Restoration: Many of the creeks leading into Morro Bay are somewhat degraded. Some are incised and don’t hold much water year-round, and in some cases the creeks lack healthy riparian vegetation. Therefore, some of the creeks aren’t suitable habitat yet for beavers hoping to move in. Thankfully, there are restoration techniques that we can implement to restore the degraded creeks and make them beaver ready once again. We can plant willow cuttings for beaver food or even build human-made beaver dams called Beaver Dam Analogs (BDAs) to begin the restoration process and encourage beavers to return. You can learn more about BDAs here:
- Beaver Coexistence: Beavers change their environment to suit their needs. So, sometimes when a beaver moves onto a person’s property there can be challenges for the landowner such as tree chewing or flooding. The usual response to this was lethally removing the beavers. But we’re here to tell you that there are simple, cost-effective ways to coexist with the beavers on your property and maintain the ecosystem benefits without having to worry about flooding or your favorite tree being chewed down! There are trained professionals in the area that can implement coexistence devices, and we provide self-help guides as well. Learn more here, or at slobeaverbrigade.com
It takes a village!
This is a collaborative effort, and we need everyone’s help! We are currently linking arms with the Morro Bay National Estuary Program, Creeklands Conservation, and Sea Otter Savvy. This is a great start, but we know there are more stakeholders that can get involved. And, if you are reading this, we need your help too! If there are any groups or organizations you know of that would like a beaver presentation, a tour of the ponds, or have a creek stewardship or restoration opportunity, please let us know by emailing us at email@example.com.