Some consider beavers a nuisance, blocking streams and chewing down trees; but they’ve been doing an important job for thousands, possible millions of years.
Now people are stepping into their shoes to help preserve some New Mexico waterways.
Branch by branch, humans are working like beavers. The team made up of volunteers and members of the National Forest are working in the Rio Cebolla off Forest Road 376 in the Jemez, not far from Fenton Lake.
The goal is to improve wildlife habitat.
“These structures mimic natural beaver dams and by holding back water a bit, it allows the stream to spread out onto flood plains, and flood plains act as a sponge that stores this water. And later during low water periods of the year it allows that water to slowly come out of these flood plain wetlands to keep streams flowing at a consistent rate,” said Cecil Rich, Santa Fe National Forest Fish and Aquatic Program Manager.
Among the animals it helps the endangered New Mexico meadow jumping mouse, which breed in these meadows.
It has other benefits too.
“This is really important for downstream communities who depend on water from National Forests as well as irrigators, agriculture communities that need consistent sources of water,” Rich said.
If you’re worried man is stealing jobs from the beaver, that’s not the case at all.
“After these structures have had a chance to be here for a while and the willows and cottonwood species – those are the species that beavers depends on, both for food as well as building materials for these dams – I think once the habitat is improved for beavers there’s a good chance they’ll move back in on their own and then they can kind of take over,” Rich said.
Several groups help this effort including members of Trout Unlimited.
The trout also benefit from this project, especially when trees are planted along the river to provide shade.
Most of the materials are harvested from the forest.