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River restoration group is eager for beavers to return to Tucson watershed

Arizona Daily Star

08/31/2019

Here’s something you might not know, unless you’re a restoration ecologist: Bringing back the beaver isn’t cheap.

Photo by Chris Richards/Arizona Daily Star The nonprofit Watershed Management Group recently launched a summer fundraising campaign seeking $90,000 to support efforts to reintroduce the aquatic rodents in Southern Arizona.

That’s on top of the roughly $400,000 in state and federal grant money the group has already secured to help restore riparian habitat along Cienega Creek and elsewhere — work not specifically for the benefit of beavers but that could one day lure the “keystone species” back to the Tucson area to stay, according to conservationists.

“If you build it they will come,” said Lisa Shipek, executive director for Watershed Management Group.

This isn’t just some furry fever dream, either.

The Bureau of Land Management and the Arizona Game and Fish Department are currently studying whether to introduce beavers into Las Cienegas National Conservation Area, about 50 miles southeast of Tucson.

The proposal is the latest in a growing trend across the West to restore beaver populations and let these unique rodents do what comes naturally: build dams that slow the flow of creeks and streams, creating crucial wetland habitat while curbing erosion and storing water for plants, animals and people.

“They’re nature’s river engineers,” said Trevor Hare, river restoration biologist for the Watershed Management Group.

“And they’ve got the skills and the know-how to work directly in the creek,” Shipek added. “I think it’s really exciting to think about the future of river restoration partnering with a creature like the American beaver.”

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