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Beaver boon: New partnership focuses on stream and wetlands restoration

In December, Adrian Bergere was officially named executive director of the San Miguel Watershed Coalition (SMWC), an independent nonprofit established in 1997 that works to maintain and improve the ecological health of all 80 miles of the free-flowing San Miguel River and its connected watershed system, including rivers, lakes, wetlands and tributaries. Now, Bergere and Western Colorado University graduate student Paul Kieras are looking to enlist interested landowners in a processed-based restoration project that utilizes beaver dam analogues (BDAs) to achieve wetland restoration, increasing water for a healthier environment across the watershed.

“Beavers happen to be these wonderful, ecological engineers that a lot of our ecological systems are based around,” Bergere explained. “They are what we call a ‘keystone species.’ Their positive impacts far outweigh their negative impacts on environment and infrastructure. We’re looking to use beavers for regional stream and wetlands restoration.”

Bergere added that by utilizing BDAs across the region as a low-tech, low-cost solution that “mimics hydrologic, ecologic and geomorphic processes” that a natural beaver dam would provide to a stream, along with post-assisted log structures and flow devices or “beaver deceivers,” SMWC hopes to establish beaver complexes which help slow the flow of water and create wetland complexes.

“What we’re looking to do is give the rivers a step-up to help store some of its natural processes so these same rivers will reconnect to their flood plain to re-charge and revitalize surrounding wetlands,” Bergere said.

Bergere and Kieras, along with the National Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, are currently identifying optimal sites across the watershed to install these BDAs. Bergere hopes to establish a program rather than a series of projects by creating a portfolio of work and a knowledge base for contractors so that this program can operate long into the future. They are also exploring multiple funding sources for the planning and execution of this program, including local and state granting opportunities.

Read more here…

An article from the Telluride Daily Planet
Amy Peters, January 26, 2022

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