I went out to the Salinas River last week, to my favorite beaver dam. I was surprised to find this new “opening” in the willows. I usually have to tip-toe, hunch down and crawl my way through the thick growth alongside the river, but this day was much different. A wide opening was there instead with two deep tire tracks going through the vegetation, all the way up to the dam.
Yup, you guessed it, an ATV drove right over the willows, cottonwoods, cattails & mule fat and right up the side of the dam. The driver must have gotten cold feet (pun intended) because he didn’t appear to go over the dam, but rather backed down it and out this same entrance. By the looks of the amount of dried duck-weed on the dam though, a good flow must have come over the dam when the ATV drove up it but the dam seemed to be quickly repaired by our resident permaculture engineers, the beavers.
Riparian forests in California support a greater diversity of wildlife than any other habitat type”.California Riparian Habitat, Restoration Handbook, Second Edition, July 2009
The week before last I visited a different beaver dam about 1 mile downstream from my favorite dam. (That’s 1 mile North since the Salinas flows South to North – so confusing to my brain). Anyway, again, a dam and ATV, this one not so recoverable. The dam was completely destroyed . Here are some photos:
Now, I really am a proponent of diversity. I don’t want to demand that everyone enjoy the outdoors the same way I do. I get that some folks enjoy the outdoors by riding ATV’s, dirt bikes, that sort of thing. And really I am okay with that. I’ve spoken to a number of the riders at the river and have found them very polite and willing to ride somewhere else while my family and I walked around the area. I have also found that the riders of these vehicles actually create the conditions for really good tracking to happen. (See the next photo and guess who was walking by this time?)
Anyway, given all that, I am still greatly annoyed that these plants are getting run over and the beaver dams are getting destroyed. I mean, it hasn’t rained in almost 7 months, if all of this water gets dispersed thru the broken dams, these beavers don’t have a chance at survival. And that means none of the fish and aquatic animals do either, and none of the bird life that eats the aquatic animals, along with all the vegetation that will just die back. That’s a whole lot of death and destruction just so someone can ride their ATV around.
I have been torn about calling the police in the past when I’ve seen ATV riders at the river. They know they are faster than the police and will get away. We all know it isn’t legal for them to be there. And I have been willing to overlook them for as long as they are willing to avoid the riparian zones.
So my request out to the world is, please, let’s not destroy entire habitats. Let’s leave the riparian areas alone. If you must ride ATV’s, please stay on a dry trail, where there isn’t any vegetation already growing. Please. Is that too much to ask?
For clarity reasons, here are some excerpts from California Riparian Habitat, Restoration Handbook, Second Edition, July 2009 http://climate.calcommons.org/sites/default/files/Restoration_Handbook_Final_Dec09.pdf .
What is a Riparian Zone?
“Riparian refers to areas that are “transitional between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, providing linkages between water bodies and adjacent uplands and include portions of terrestrial ecosystems that significantly influence exchanges of energy and matter with aquatic ecosystems”.
The riparian zone is characterized by a unique set of physical ecological factors in comparison to the surrounding regional landscape (Gregory et al. 1991). These factors include flooding by the river, rich and productive soils, a water table that is within reach of plant roots, and species of plants and wildlife that are adapted to the timing of fluvial events such as flooding, drought, sediment transport and channel movement. This dynamic habitat creates a wide variety of growing conditions for riparian plants, and over
time they develop into various structural forms (forests, woodlands, shrublands, meadows and grasslands) across the floodplain. The heterogeneity of riparian forests creates numerous habitat features that explain why riparian forests in California support a greater diversity of wildlife than any other habitat type (Smith
1980). Riparian vegetation along river channels also functions as primary regional migration routes for most wildlife.
How do Riparian Zones support people?
Riparian ecosystems support people as well as wildlife. Rivers and their floodplains provide many “river services” to the surrounding local community. (Also termed “Multiple benefits” by floodway managers.) These include:
- Conveyance and delivery of water supply
- Effective conveyance of flood waters – Native riparian plants on the floodplain attenuate flood waters and trap large debris
- Maintenance of water quality – A living river will improve water quality through biological processing of pollutants and physical filtering of sediments and organic materials
- Wildlife habitat and regional migration corridor – Vegetated floodplains provide cover for wildlife during migration.
- Recreation Opportunities – Fishing, hunting, boating, and wildlife viewing are enhanced by native riparian plants.
River services are optimized when a river and its floodplain are healthy. Healthy rivers are free of intensive regulation such as dams and revetment and their floodplains support a mosaic of plant communities”California Riparian Habitat, Restoration Handbook, Second Edition, July 2009
If you have ideas to help support our riparian zones from ATV abuse, please let us know. I’m perplexed. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.