Why the Beaver State Should Protect its Beavers:
Beavers are synonymous with Oregon’s wilderness. They’re on our flag, they’re our state animal and they gave us our nickname: the Beaver State. But while we’ve been happy to welcome beavers into our reputation, we’ve done little to keep them around.
Oregon hosts an abundance of suitable habitat for beavers. But current hunting and fishing rules allow largely unregulated harvesting of beavers across the state, with few protected areas. Additionally, the population status of beavers in Oregon is unknown because the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the agency responsible for managing the state’s fish and wildlife, has not been monitoring live beaver populations and distribution.
Beavers are nature’s engineers. They improve water quality, diversify habitat, create fire breaks against wildfires and maintain or increase stream flows for our fish. Science has shown that habitats that are created and maintained by beavers lead to improved water quality and decreased flood peaks and intensity, helping humans and natural communities be resilient in combating the impacts of climate change. While beavers are not listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act or Oregon’s Endangered Species Act, they are critically important members of forest ecosystems.
There are less than 170 licensed beaver hunters and trappers in Oregon, out of a population of 4.2 million. The majority of Oregonians care about habitat loss, lack of water, declining fish populations and responsible resource management. All of these issues could be improved by increasing the amount of protected beaver habitat in our state. Right now, protected beaver habitat includes only Ochoco National Forest, and some rivers and streams in Mt Hood National Forest and Umatilla National Forest
Beavers have done their part to protect our health, our livelihoods and our natural resources. It’s time we do our part for them and amend state regulations to increase protected habitat on our public lands.