New Beaver Dams Help Parched Landscape

Last weekend, the parched pasturelands near Little Mountain got a bit of help from nature’s original flood irrigators: beaver dams.

These beaver dams were not built with teeth and tails, however. Over 70 different volunteers, agencies, nonprofit workers, businesses, and others all gathered on the Ramsay Ranch, where big head-cut banks line Trout Creek, to build these man-made beaver dams called beaver dam analogs (BDAs for short).

BDAs are important for river restoration because they replicate the natural water-flow allocation that occurred when there were originally more beavers in the waterways. It’s especially important in the face of persistent drought and changing conditions that have affected this part of the world.

On Thursday, over 30 high school students from Green River High School and the Expedition Academy came to the Ramsay Ranch to join in building the BDAs.

Wyoming Wildlife Federation’s Sam Lockwood and Trout Unlimited’s Nick Walrath were crucial in working with the Ramsay family to host the beaver dam analog building, and coordinated with the school systems to get students out to the ranch to help.

Nick says, “This was awesome to see the kids come out because some of these kids have not ever been to the Greater Little Mountain Area even though they live right up the road.”

Flooded Grasses Due to BDA
Beaver dam analogs (BDAs) create natural flood irrigation in high water times, and encourage beavers to continue creating ponds that reduce runoff, and build deeper pools that are good for trout species.

He continued, “This was a great experience for them to come and get on-the-ground working outdoors while helping local wildlife and habitat”

Nick is the Green River Project Manager, and worked closely with the Ramsay Family, as well as others in the community, to get the proper permitting, sighting, and partners together to make the project happen.

On Friday, a large crew of 27 volunteers and partners gathered on Trout Creek to continue building as well. Among the helping hands were eight employees of Western Midstream, volunteers from around the region, Trout Unlimited staff, Wyoming Wildlife Federation staff, and Bureau of Land Management employees, including the Wyoming State Director, Andrew Archuleta.

“It was great to see all the groups and individuals come together and build these BDAs,” said WWF Habitat Coordinator, Sam Lockwood. He continued, “this country had very little precipitation this winter and has been dry for quite some time, so hopefully all these efforts will help keep some of the water up here in the drainage and usable for wildlife and the ranchers who rely on the area.”

WWF’s Sam Lockwood, Jaden Bales, and Joy Bannon with the Wyoming Director of the Bureau of Land Management, Andrew Archuleta.

All of the beaver dam analogs were completed by mid-afternoon on Saturday, marking over 40 new BDAs in Trout Creek. In the end, these BDAs will help promote natural dam building and fortification from the beavers who live in the drainage. Over time, these riparian habitats will recover with the aid of these BDA. This is crucial for the ranchers who try to make a living off the land with cattle, like the Ramsays who are working to build their herd on the place after inheriting it from their late father.

Jackson Ramsay, one of three brothers who own the parcel of land where the BDAs were installed, is excited to continue these kinds of projects. “This is an opportunity for different user groups to work together. We as ranchers win, and those representing wildlife win. It’s a great symbiotic relationship,” said Jackson, who spent most of the day Thursday and Saturday in the trenches building the BDAs dams in his blue jeans.

Jackson Ramsay and Nick Walrath
Landowner, Jackson Ramsay and Nick Walrath of Trout Unlimited work together to build a beaver dam analog on Trout Creek.

These are the kinds of partnerships that make the biggest difference for the future of wildlife and Wyoming’s wild places. When neighbors work together to make projects happen promoting healthy, connected, working landscapes, all Wyomingites can celebrate.

This area, the Greater Little Mountain area, is a priority habitat for the Wyoming Wildlife Federation and Trout Unlimited. The majority of this land is public and managed by the Bureau of Land Management’s Rock Springs field office.

In the coming weeks and months, you will see a draft management plan that spans 3.6 million acres and the Greater Little Mountain area which is 522,000 acres will be part of it. When the draft plan comes out, use your voice to keep the GLMA a priority into the future and to be managed for its natural resource values.

WWF would like to extend a special thanks to the Ramsay Family for hosting the habitat project, Nick Walrath with Trout Unlimited, Dave Kimble of the SW Wyoming Partners for Fish & Wildlife Program, Western Midstream, and all of the other volunteers who came to put in these beaver dam analogs.