California Releases Beavers into Plumas County

California wildlife officials released a family of seven beavers into northwest Plumas County last week as part of conservation efforts that could mitigate the impacts of drought, wildfires, and climate change. The project is the first of its kind in nearly a century. It has been years in the making, carried out in cooperation with the Mountain Maidu tribe of Plumas County.

The seven beavers will unite with a single beaver currently living on tribal land known as Tásmam Koyóm (Humbug Valley) in the hopes of creating a new breeding population. In the second phase, beavers will be released into the Tule River Reservation in the southern Sierra Nevada.

One County’s Nuisance is Another’s Treasure

The beavers are being relocated from Sutter County where they are viewed as a nuisance for toppling trees and increasing flood risk. They’ll play a very different role in Plumas, acting as an “ecosystem restoration tool” in the words of CDFW Environmental Program Manager Valerie Cook. 

CDFW says the beavers will help facilitate more groundwater recharge, improve summer baseflows and seasonal flows, create more moisture during wildfire season, and provide refugia for wildlife.

“Beaver relocation will help both to restore the environment and preserve traditional culture of our tribal partners who have stewarded these lands since time immemorial,” said California Natural Resource Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot. “I’m excited to watch how beaver will improve the health of landscapes in coming decades and support traditional lifeways for our diverse tribal communities.”

A Tribal Homecoming

Beavers were once plentiful in the area, but disappeared due to the actions of pioneers, the Maidu say.

“It’s good to have them back home again,” said Ben Cunningham, chairman of the Maidu Summit Consortium. “The beavers are back where they belong.”

“We would not be here without the Tule River Tribe of California who have been out front advocating for these actions for years, tribes around the state like (the) Karuk, and, of course, Maidu Summit Consortium leaders,” CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonhom said in a press release. “The future looks much better because of these leaders.”