The Silvies Valley Ranch is an example of using local innovation to combat the global problem of incised streams on rangelands. Incised channels reduce the flow between water in the channel and water in the surrounding soils, which reduces the vegetation available for wildlife habitat and cattle forage. One of the ranch owners, Scott Campbell, a doctor of veterinary medicine, believes that stream incision is related to the decline of beaver populations; thus, the ranch’s approach to restoration includes efforts to mimic beavers’ influence on the system. He is using an extensive network of low-rise dams made from locally available materials (dirt, gravel, rock, and logs), commonly referred to as “artificial beaver dams” (ABDs). Campbell said that the ABDs on the ranch successfully increased stream connectivity to their floodplains and increased the quantity and forage quality of wet meadows on the property, with no changes in where cattle were grazing. The experiences of this landowner exemplify a unique approach that provides a model for others facing similar challenges to doing restoration on private land. The transformation taking place on the Silvies Valley Ranch has garnered the attention of neighboring ranch owners, some of whom are beginning to experiment with similar restoration technologies. Campbell would like to continue installing structures, but has encountered numerous roadblocks in the permitting process. He has since taken an active role in building legislative support for the ABD technology being used on the ranch, and in facilitating its adoption in other places. This case study—based on interviews with stakeholders involved in the Silvies Valley Ranch project—highlights the social benefits and challenges experienced by one rancher using ABDs as a restoration tool, and provides insights for improving their use in the future. It is part of a larger interdisciplinary study that explores the potential of different beaver-related restoration approaches for achieving watershed restoration and livestock production goals on rangelands in the Western United States.
Davee, Rachael; Charnley, Susan; Gosnell, Hannah. 2017. Silvies Valley Ranch, OR: using artificial beaver dams to restore incised streams. Research Note. PNW-RN-577. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 11 p. (Online only)