National Forest Planning and Beaver Restoration

Advocating for Beaver Restoration in National Forest Plans

National forest plans set the overall management direction for a given forest with guidance for the design and execution of specific management actions. As the pace, scale, and magnitude of climate change has become increasingly evident, there is an urgent need for these plans to explicitly address the impacts and implications of a rapidly changing climate, and offer solutions to build resilience and ecological integrity.

And while there are many components and outcomes of national forest plans, this guide focuses on how these plans can help protect and restore ecological integrity by expanding the range of existing beaver populations in national forests, encouraging nonlethal controls to address conflicts with culverts and other human-built structures, and—where appropriate and supported by best available science—reintroducing beavers in suitable habitat. Beavers can activate and magnify people's best intentions for public land, and this guide provides resources and sample language for individuals and organizations wishing to ensure that beaver restoration is included in ongoing forest plan revisions. The authors focus in particular on the western forests where beavers provide “natural climate solutions.” By building dams that restore groundwaters, connect floodplains, and expand the wetlands and riparian habitat, beavers ensure a more resilient landscape in a warming West.

Reviewing and commenting on a forest plan can be intimidating, given the size, complexity, and breadth of topics in these documents. But you don’t need to be an expert to provide meaningful feedback, and you shouldn't feel the need to comment on each and every plan element. By sharing your values and concerns, by flagging parts of the plan where you see opportunities for improvement, and by providing positive feedback for strong provisions in a draft plan, you will advance and inform a dialogue that supports the development and implementation of more effective forest plans, with better management decisions for years to come.

This guide complements and is organized similarly to NWF’s A Guide to Advocating for Climate-Smart Restoration. A more legally focused resource on this subject is Zellmer, Bates & Brown, “Restoring Beavers to Enhance Ecological Integrity in National Forest Planning,” Natural Resources & Environment (ABA Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources), Vol. 33, No. 3 (Winter 2019).

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