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Utah DWR seeking to restore stream habitat with beaver dam analogs

By Ryan Aston - | Feb 7, 2024

Photo supplied, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

One of 45 beaver dam analogs built by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources in the Cinnamon Creek Wildlife Management Area near Ogden in 2023.

WEBER COUNTY — The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has announced the construction of several beaver dam analogs at a Northern Utah wildlife management area with the aim of restoring stream habitat.

In total, 45 beaver dam analogs were built last summer and fall within the Cinnamon Creek WMA, an 8,107-acre property located west of Ant Flat Road near the Cache/Weber County boundary line. The land was purchased by DWR at public auction in late 2021.

Shane Hill, the DWR biologist in charge of the project, tells the Standard-Examiner that previous land management plans fell short where preserving stream habitat was concerned.

“When we got it, we had interest in improving the habitat for wildlife. The land practices were more geared toward grazing; they wanted the land for grasses and more acreage for forage. So, different goals,” Hill said. “When it transitioned into our hands, we started the process of getting it to where we’d like it to be.”

Beaver dam analogs mimic the animals’ natural construction of dams, which slow the flow of water through streams (in this case, Red Rock Creek). As a result, the water table is raised and a more diverse array of vegetation can grow and thrive throughout the area.

In order to jumpstart the process, DWR planted a variety of plants last fall, including cottonwoods, currants, roses, serviceberry and willows. The hope is that the restored habitat will eventually lure beavers that can maintain the dams themselves.

Such efforts can make a big difference in Utah — and in the Arid West in general — where there’s a large discrepancy between available stream habitat and the number of species that rely on it. And while DWR has specific goals for deer and elk with the project, other wildlife stands to benefit from the resuscitated habitat as well, including various species of birds, in addition to amphibians and fish.

“This is an area where we have an unspoiled population of native Bonneville cutthroat trout,” Hill said. “This work will improve the area so more miles of the stream can support those fish and amphibians as well.”

Hill noted that beaver dam analogs, which are inexpensive and easy to build, can yield benefits that go beyond those experienced by wildlife, too.

“As we get more of these projects in the headwaters, we’re able to store water longer in the mountains,” he said. “We can benefit from that by having more water later in the year.”

Another major benefit is the potential expansion of wetted areas, which lowers the risk of large, catastrophic fires during the hotter, drier months.

Nearby private landowners accommodated and even aided in the dam-construction effort. Other agencies contributed to the project as well, including Utah Forestry, Fire & State Lands, which supplied the posts that were used. Similar dam analog projects exist throughout the state.

Hill indicated that more analogs likely will be installed at Cinnamon Creek WMA in the future, adding: “This will be a long-term monitoring and maintenance project on our part.”


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