Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Utah
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Utah Project

White River Conservation and Restoration: Using large wood piles for beaver mimicry and investigating novel methods for determining beaver carrying capacity, to inform future phases of restoration.

July 2023 - October 2024


Participating Agencies

  • Desert Fishes Habitat CoOuncil

The lower White River is home to many native fishes, is frequently used by endangered big river fishes of the Upper Colorado Basin (UCB), has some of the best remaining cottonwood galleries and in-stream habitat across the tributaries of the UCB, and is home to an active beaver population. Beaver activity provides many ecosystem services commonly associated with river conservation and restoration, namely maintaining and enhancing complex in-stream habitat by providing inputs of large woody debris. Yet, the status of the beaver population remains unknown, adding uncertainty to the future condition of in-stream habitat. The partners include the Utah DIvsion of Wildlife REsources, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Desert Fishes Habitat Council. The lower White River, UT, is currently in a state of high-quality condition, but invasive plants threaten the river’s condition and are therefore being mechanically removed as part of a large river restoration effort, where we are implementing an adaptive, science-based conservation, restoration, and monitoring plan for the lower White River (the Plan). The White River appears to be home to a thriving and extremely active beaver population, but we do not know the population density nor if the population is near carrying capacity. A precise population estimate in the lower White River is critical to future phases of this conservation and restoration project and has the potential to inform beaver translocation efforts elsewhere, where beavers are at very low densities, largely due to previous trapping. Genetic approaches to beaver population estimates and habitat use appear extremely promising.