What better beginning to the New Year than the news of California’s recent beaver release?!
State agency, tribal, and other partners opening the cages to release a family of beavers.
In October, only two months after the creation of CA’s first-ever Beaver Management Program, a family of seven beavers were released on ancestral native Maidu land in Plumas County. This beautiful 2,300 acres, called Tásmam Koyóm by the Mountain Maidu people, could not have been a more ideal place for a successful beaver reintroduction. Tásmam is a wide, sweeping valley holding an expansive, buzzing meadow in a bowl of alpine forest with cold springs and a beautiful year-round creek running through it to the North Fork of the Feather River. Surrounded by wilderness, it is wild enough to be home to animals like bear, mountain lion, bobcats, elk, bald eagles, sandhill cranes, river otter,... and if lucky, beaver once again.
Can you imagine a California of the not so distant past chirping and bustling with the life of plentiful wetlands, gushing springs, and winding, weaving streams? The soil was saturated with nutrients, with the micro and macro exchanges of life, with the copious niche habitats only water in abundance can provide. This was once a much wetter and biodiverse landscape, greatly populated and formed by beavers doing what they do naturally. Water is Life, as so many Indigenous cultures worldwide remember. And beaver as a bridge-builder are a keystone to that life. Beaver represent a beautiful vision for a future of interspecies kinship our human kin can aspire towards.
The beaver family together. A beaver kit riding a yearling's tail.
Beaver once thrived in a much greener California. But how do we know?
In 2020, a surprising artifact was pulled from an old remnant beaver dam at Tásmam. Sabra Purdy, an Aquatic Restoration Ecologist, carbon-dated this old beaver chew stick at 1200 years old. In her paper presenting this discovery, she reflects how beaver were already prevalent in local Indigenous lore and how elders have shared with certainty that beaver have been here for generations…
It is a blessing that this statewide restoration work is beginning at Tásmam Koyóm, a place that has long been tended by the Mountain Maidu people and thus is not at the risk of being exploited or seen as a “resource” as most wild places are. Even this seemingly pristine landscape is still in repair from the eco-cultural damage caused by settlers during the goldrush.
Since the rightful return of this land from PG&E to the Maidu Summit Consortium in 2019, numerous environmental groups have committed their support to a collaborative stewardship with the Maidu in giving this land years of preparation for a future with beavers.
[These groups are: the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center’s WATER Institute, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Lassen National Forest, Plumas Corporation, Swift Water Design, Symbiotic Restoration, Feather River Land Trust, The Sierra Fund, CalPBR Network and others.]
It’s easy to forget that there are remarkable humans involved behind these organization names in this work. There is a very promising future ahead with these dedicated individuals teaming their skills and enthusiasm as an ecosystem would. To learn more about the vision for Tasmam and beyond, designed to integrate fundamental Indigenous ecological principles and innovative technology, take a look at this extraordinary Beaver Recruitment Strategy for Tasmam Koyom prepared for the Maidu Summit Consortium by Kate Lundquist and Brock Dolman of the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center WATER Institute.
Alongside prayers for world peace with our human kin and for greater wellness with our communities and ourselves, it would be a dream come true to see more plants, animals, and waterways thriving, more life and biodiversity in abundance…
May the beaver be a guiding symbol of life, an ally to look towards, and an inspiration for a future in cultivating harmonious relationship.