News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Beavers say 'yes' to invitation

When Lake Creek Lodge put a sign out that said "Restaurant Open," they didn't expect a large aquatic rodent to be one of the first to dine. But just days before a major restoration planting to benefit beaver habitat began behind the Lodge, a special guest came by to check out the neighborhood eats for one of the few times in a decade.

That lone beaver must have felt the love. In April a partnership between Think Wild/Beaver Works Program and Lodge owner Gordon Jones invited the community to learn more about the benefits of the American Beaver on the landscape. Surprisingly, 85 people came to a Beaver Believer event at the Lodge featuring a nature movie, popcorn, and a walk around the property. A project to provide more food for beavers by planting willows, red osier dogwood, and cottonwoods was planned for May.

Then days before it was to begin, a beaver showed up in Lake Creek near the Lodge, munching on willow branches from a lone willow bush and planting them in a log jam. Long-time Lake Creek residents say they have seldom seen a beaver there before.

Photo Courtesy Think Wild

Work crews engaged in restoration planting.

Beaver Works Program Manager Maureen Thompson said "It was exciting timing. It gave us just a little more purpose." Dedicated volunteers harvested 5,000 dormant willow branches last winter to plant out at four projects across Central Oregon, including this one on Lake Creek. Volunteers planted 900 willows, 30–40 aspens, and 10 cottonwoods streamside behind the Lodge. But the beavers won't be getting fast food, the plants are fenced for three to five years so they can grow to a size that can withstand browsing and not be a "Candy Store."

Beavers are a hot ticket these days in watershed restoration work, coming with the recognition of the beaver as a keystone species that provides important ecosystem functions. Construction of imitation beaver dams, called Beaver Dam Analogues, is a popular, light-impact restoration technique which creates pools and more complex stream channels in altered flood plains. Thompson said "With beavers there's just so much good news. They just really uplift all these other species," as she described benefits to bats, amphibians, and moist riparian habitats.

Beaver Works has a holistic program of three parts to help beavers: 1. Promoting Beaver habitat restoration by enhancing beaver neighborhoods that they call "Beaverhoods"; 2. Recognizing there can be conflicts, and providing a Beaver Response Team to help landowners resolve issues; and 3. Sharing information with Oregonians about the benefits of beavers on the landscape.

Putting out the invite to beavers felt natural to Jones, who has a long-term interest in rivers and conservation. He said, "I have always wanted beavers on the property." Jones worked in complex wetland mitigation and restoration projects in Portland starting in the late 1980s and took on the award-winning restoration of Lake Creek channel through the resort property with watershed partners in 2006. He was recently inspired by restoration work in the Klamath River Basin, and friends who were beaver advocates. He realized his property was a bit of a "willow food desert" for beavers and enlisted the help of Beaver Works.

Photo Courtesy Think Wild

The crew takes a photo break from habitat restoration work.

Jones is excited that their efforts are already paying off and added, "Beavers are helpful in raising the water table and creating a more fire-resistant environment."

Thompson marveled at the enthusiasm of local beaver believers, saying, "Because Beaver Works tries to work on the biotic and cultural limitations to beavers natural recovery, I just love that so many people in Camp Sherman showed up for this and have maintained interest... Gordon is very passionate about the project, and it's exciting to have a landowner like that to work with. The project has been garnering a lot of interest, and I love to see it. And to have a beaver show up at the same time was like all my favorite things aligning, which is so rare."

Learn more about the Beaver Works Program at


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