Because the restoration of beaver offers such extensive benefits to Utah, one of our major efforts will be to build on our 2010–2012 work assisting this restoration:
Assessing Beaver Habitat Conditions
In January 2010, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) adopted its first-ever beaver management plan. The plan emphasizes nonlethal responses to beaver in “nuisance” settings. Our volunteers and staff, especially Wildlife Associate Jeremy Christensen, are helping UDWR implement this plan in the Dixie, Fishlake, and Manti-La Sal National Forests.
One ambitious portion of the plan calls for a statewide assessment of beaver populations and habitat conditions (availability of cottonwood, aspen, and willow) for the first time since the 1970s. Since 2010, with the help of volunteers, we have assessed habitat conditions at a majority of the eighty-seven sites that are listed in the plan for the potential reintroduction of beaver in the Dixie, Fishlake, and Manti-La Sal National Forests. In 2013, we will work with Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to focus on increasing live trapping of beaver from sites such as irrigation ditches, and reintroducing them to UDWR-listed sites we have assessed as having sufficient food (cottonwood, aspen, and/or willow) for successful beaver occupation.
- A Big BRAT. In 2012, the Trust contracted with Joe Wheaton and Wally Macfarlane of Utah State University to develop the Beaver Restoration Assessment Tool (BRAT), which uses free mapping information on water, vegetation, and stream power to identify the best conditions for beaver. In 2012, BRAT was applied to the Escalante River watershed. In 2013, we will apply GIS to map potential beaver sites throughout the three forests.
- A Little Toad. The boreal toad (aka western toad or Bufo boreas) is a sensitive species because its populations are declining in Utah. The Center for Biological Diversity is pursuing a listing of boreal toad as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Nearly all boreal toads are found at high-elevation ponds behind beaver dams (active or historic). In 2013, we will join UDWR in the field to help document the relationship between boreal toad populations and beaver ponds. We’ll also map potential boreal toad habitat using the BRAT (see above).