Restoring beavers to undo (some of) the ecological damage of climate change

Can a rodent species native to the Methow Valley, Washington help solve problems created by climate change?

Absolutely, according to a local biologist who leads the Methow Beaver Project.

Beavers, the animal kingdom’s version of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, build dams that store water in mountain streams. And that could help mitigate the impacts of diminishing winter snowpacks and warmer temperatures that are anticipated as a result of climate change, said Kent Woodruff.

The Methow Beaver Project, now in its ninth year, relocates beavers to tributaries in the upper reaches of the Methow watershed.

The goal is to restore beavers to their historical habitat and allow them to do what comes naturally — build dams and create ponds that store water both above and below ground.

Water held in those storage basins is released gradually throughout the warm months when it is needed for fish, wildlife and irrigation.

That slow release has the added benefit of keeping water in tributaries cooler, which enhances habitat for fish and other creatures, said Woodruff, a biologist with the U.S. Forest Service.

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