Since 2009, ONDA has built dozens of BDAs in the John Day, Malheur and Crooked River watersheds, working in close collaboration with the land managers in each of these regions.
While the work at Bridge Creek is definitely the best known in the state, one of the most rewarding projects is underway on Pine Creek Conservation Area. ONDA volunteers have spent a decade helping restore beaver habitat here. In 2015 volunteers constructed the first 15 BDAs on the creek. Within a year and a half, local beavers responded by outbuilding us more than 10 to one, and dramatically transforming and recovering entire reaches of the creek. This year, we will complete the final 30 BDAs on this creek, with high hopes for continued changes in the coming years.
Installing BDAs costs significantly less than traditional restoration methods, where large machinery is required to reconstruct sharply cut stream banks. And the lower price point isn’t the only advantage that BDAs have over other techniques.
As Ben Goldfarb, author of the new book Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter, told us, “ In our screen-dominated world, the opportunity to get out onto spectacular public lands, swing a sledgehammer, and work on behalf of nature is a rare and precious thing. Sure, using volunteers is cost-effective — but it’s also a chance to teach people about the value of beavers, fish habitat, and healthy aquatic ecosystems, and to cultivate a sense of stewardship in the next generation of conservationists.”
ONDA’s mission to conserve public lands and push for more areas to be protected as Wilderness helps beaver ecology as well. Stopping large-scale human interferences is often the most important, first step to recovery. Returning areas to their natural state is not simply for appreciating the intrinsic value of nature. Economists and scientists worldwide have begun recognizing the high price of ecosystem services. Global estimates put the value of ecosystem services in the trillions, and according to the BBC’s Earth Index, a single beaver can provide $120,000 worth of services (2). Every time we successfully secure more protected lands, we recover these services. When ONDA volunteers lend a helping hand through restoration projects, such as installing BDAs, we recover these valuable services sooner – and right now Mother Nature needs every extra minute we can give her.
- Weighing in at an average of 65 pounds, beaver are the largest rodent in the U.S.
- The longest recorded beaver dam is 850 meters.
- Before colonization, an estimated 250 million beaver ponds covered what is now the U.S. This many dams could hold back enough water to submerge Washington, Oregon, and California.