An incised stream occurs when a stream cuts its channel into the bed of a valley through degradation (erosion). As a stream cuts its channel, the water table drops and the surrounding vegetation changes from wetlands and meadows to dry shrublands. Incised streams are thought to be a result of the removal of beaver from arid landscapes in the western United States.
The beaver is considered a keystone species because their presence on the landscape allows other organisms to exist that otherwise would not. This is because beaver impoundments and dams change the spatial distribution of water as well as water flow rate. Through the creation of ponds and wetlands, beavers can increase plant and animal biodiversity. The restoration of streams from beaver or simulated beaver dams allows short-term streams to become perennial or long-term flowing streams.
*Please note that the appearance of this page was changed in November 2020, but all of the original information was retained.
Restoring Incised Streams
If you are interested in using beavers or beaver mimicry to restore incised streams or increase water retention, then review the collection of information for managers and landowners below.
King County, Washington provides rules and regulations on beaver management, links to information on beaver management devices, as well as information on technical assistance to help address beaver-related conflicts.
Memo on Stream Channel Alteration Permits from the Idaho Department of Water Resources includes legal guidance on processing an application to construct in-stream beaver mimicking structures.
Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife Guidance on Beavers provides a one-stop shop of information on beaver history in Oregon, benefits and challenges on public and private lands, and rules and regulations on how to address conflict.
Beaver Restoration Guidebook: Working with Beaver to Restore Streams, Wetlands, and Floodplains, V. 2.0 is a “how-to” guide for landowners and managers.
Beavers as Ecopartners is a magazine article that discusses how beavers are helping improve water resources (and fly fishing!) in parts of the West.
If You Build It, They Will Come: Ranching, Riparian Revegetation, and Beaver Colonization in Elko County, Nevada is a case study of riparian revegetation efforts and changes to grazing practices for the benefit of fish. Restoration efforts led to natural beaver recolonization and on-going, natural stream improvement and maintenance on private and public lands.
Beavers, Landowners, and Watershed Restoration: Experimenting with Beaver Dam Analogues in the Scott River basin, California is a case study of beaver dam analogues (BDAs) and changes to grazing activity on private lands to improve conditions for federal Endangered Species Act-listed southern Oregon/northern California coast coho salmon.
Great Expectations: Deconstructing the Process Pathways Underlying Beaver-Related Restoration is an article that proposes a new adaptive framework for evaluating beaver-related restoration that better acknowledges the difficulties inherent to evaluating the "success" of restoration, especially when combining multiple complex natural processes.
Ranchers, Beavers, and Stream Restoration on Western Rangelands is an issue of Science Findings from the USFS Pacific Northwest Research Station that summarizes beaver-related restoration (BRR) efforts across the West. It highlights feedback from ranchers that indicates benefits of BRR are generally perceived to outweigh challenges and discusses regulatory barriers to implementation.
Partnering with Beaver in Restoration Workshop shared presentation slides that feature details from Idaho rancher Jay Wilde and his successful effort to restore Birch Creek to benefit his cattle operation.Building Riparian Resilience Through Beaver Restoration is a site that provides an overview of what beavers have to offer and how western ranchers are benefitting, while also learning to live with beavers on the landscape. Information provided by the Seventh Generation Institute. Beavers, Water, and Fire—A New Formula for Success highlights how restoration efforts can create critical areas of refuge from wildfire for livestock and wildlife. Silvies Valley Ranch, Oregon: Using Artificial Beaver Dams to Restore Incised Streams is a case study of stream restoration efforts using affordable, in-stream beaver mimicking structures to address wide-spread stream incision across a large, private ranch in eastern Oregon. Beaver-Related Restoration in Owyhee County, Idaho: Opportunities and Challenges is a case study of potential beaver-related restoration to benefit the many sensitive species that require high-quality riparian and aquatic habitat in the Owyhee region. Using Beaver Dam Analogues for Fish and Wildlife Recovery on Public and Private Rangelands in Eastern Oregon is a case study of beave dam analogue (BDA) placement and long-term monitoring on public lands throughout the Bridge Creek watershed in eastern Oregon.
The Beaver profile from Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife provides information about beaver habits and activity, conflict prevention, and includes details on state-specific regulations regarding beaver relocation.
Sustaining Our Tradition and Culture: Beaver highlights how the Tulalip Tribes’ beaver project is improving fish rearing habitat and freshwater storage in impaired tributaries of the upper Snohomish Watershed by relocating “nuisance” beavers from urban areas.
Stream Habitat Restoration Guidelines (2012) are provided by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and cover beaver re-introduction as a restoration technique. This resource details the impacts on the size and shape of streams.
Beaver Dam Analogues, A Visual Tour of Triple Creek shows the step by step process of public-private partnership to identify problem areas, plan, and construct beaver dam analogues (BDAs) in Washington.
Rethinking Beaver: Old Nuisance or New Partner? provides a rancher’s perspective in a three-minute teaser of a full-length film. The film highlights success stories from ranchers using beavers to restore waterways and improve water access in Idaho.
Beaver Dam Analogues Catching on in Idaho provides a rancher perspective and experience on using beaver dam analogues (BDAs) to improve water resources on private lands.
Beaver Dams without Beavers? details how beaver dam analogues (BDAs) work and includes information on a key long-term restoration site at Bridge Creek, Oregon.