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Aquatic Restoration Project Spotlight: relocating beavers

While beaver populations have rebounded in many areas since the end of the fur trade, it is estimated that there are 6 -12 million beavers in North America, which is just a fraction of estimated pre-European levels of 40-600 million. Beavers are a keystone species and a crucial part of our strategy for restoring aquatic habitat and building climate change resilience in the Cascades. Our beaver reintroduction efforts focus on headwater systems where natural recovery has been slow due to habitat fragmentation and the relatively slow pace of upland colonization by beavers. We collaborate with university partners to study the impacts of beaver recovery and the movement patterns of reintroduced beavers to inform future relocation efforts and better understand the role of beavers returning to the landscape.

A Land Shaped by Water and Salmon

The creeks, rivers, and wetlands that make up the complex watersheds in the southern Washington Cascades are vital to the health of the entire region. These systems support threatened salmon and trout, an array of amphibians, birds, and insects, and downstream human communities. Waterways and aquatic species in southern Washington’s Cascades have been negatively impacted over the years by streamside logging, dams, water pollution, stream “cleanout” activities, and overall habitat degradation. They are now facing increasing threats from climate change, such as rising water temperatures and shifting precipitation and flow patterns, further endangering cold water-dependent species like salmon and steelhead. The health of our watersheds is vital to the health of the entire region. Therefore, CFC works to protect waterways from further damage and restore damaged habitats, leading to healthier and more resilient ecosystems.

  • We speak out against attempts to weaken or bypass existing protections and advocate for policies that ensure the long-term health of waterways.

  • We assess the potential effects of timber sales and other proposed development projects on aquatic habitats and fight to prevent or minimize adverse impacts.

  • We work with partners including the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, Lower Columbia Fish Enhancement Group, the U.S. Forest Service, and individual volunteers on large-scale aquatic restoration projects to improve salmon habitats in the region.

  • Other restoration projects like the Instream Wood Bank Network, the construction of beaver dam analogs (BDAs), strategic beaver reintroductions, and planting native tree species along waterways improve aquatic habitats throughout the forest.

Our approach to protecting and restoring aquatic ecosystems

Limiting impacts from logging and development​

Streamside logging sends sediment into waterways, impacting fish habitat and water quality, decreasing shade (which exacerbates warming trends), undermining the stability of stream banks, and removing trees that will one day be valuable for instream wood. CFC works to prevent or limit streamside logging, replant trees in previously logged streamside habitats, and reduce the impact of forest roads runoff and culverts.

Collaborative and innovative approaches to habitat restoration

We work collaboratively to address threats to aquatic ecosystems with such partners as Lower Columbia Fish Enhancement Group, Cowlitz Indian Tribe, Friends of East Fork Lewis, and the U.S. Forest Service.

CFC tests and monitors innovative restoration strategies while providing unique opportunities for volunteers to study and connect more deeply with the forest through hands-on conservation work.​


Watersheds in the Pacific Northwest are under significant strain. Precipitation patterns and timing of snowmelt are becoming increasingly unpredictable, leading to an increase in flooding and low flow or drought conditions across the region. Water temperatures are also rising, sometimes to unsafe levels for spawning trout and salmon, which need cold water to reproduce successfully. Our strategies for addressing the effects of climate change in aquatic systems can be found below.

Featured water projects

Introducing the Instream Wood Bank Network

The Insteam Wood Bank Network is an innovative strategy for addressing two major aquatic restoration challenges: the lack of wood in waterways and the lack of reliable sources of materials for restoration professionals in the region.​

Improving habitat with Beaver Dam Analogs

Beaver dam analogs (BDAs) are human-made structures designed to mimic many of the ecological benefits of beaver dams. Using natural materials and a lot of hard work, CFC staff and volunteers are improving habitat and building climate resilience by thinking like a beaver.​

Searching for Pacific lamprey

Lampreys are ancient fish, but little is known about their current populations in the areas in which we work. We are helping answer questions about lamprey habitat and species presence and testing how new sampling techniques that use environmental DNA compares to traditional detection methods.​


Since 1985, Cascade Forest Conservancy has been your voice speaking for the areas in and around the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in southwest Washington. Join the 12,000 other members who support Cascade Forest Conservancy and are making a difference now.

News & Updates


  As a quick recap, beaver dam analogs are man-made structures that are created to mimic the form and function of natural-made beaver dams. Check out the first blog post in this series to learn more about beaver dam analogs and the benefits they provide to an ecosystem. There are a variety of reasons why...

The Key to CFC’s new Aquatic Restoration Program: Simple Tools and the Mind of a Beaver

In the coming years, scientists predict our region will continue to experience more frequent and intense droughts, floods, wildfires, insect outbreaks, and other harmful effects of climate change. CFC is working strategically to slow climate change and to build climate resilience where we can now. Restoring degraded ecosystems can help mitigate the climate-related threats our...

NEWS RELEASE | February 23, 2021 Judge rules federal agencies once again violated federal environmental laws in approving mining exploration near Mt. St. Helens.

Judge rules federal agencies once again violated federal environmental laws in approving mining exploration near Mt. St. Helens.   A federal court ruled mineral prospecting permits issued by the Bereau of Land Management and the Forest Service violated environmental laws. The decision is a victory for conservation groups who believe that Mount St. Helens is no...

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