Dr. Heidi Perryman’s reaction to her presentation to PLACER CO BOS yesterday on Beavers

I was never very good at math, but for some reason I really got statistics. That way of thinking about numbers just made sense to me. I could put the formulas together and analyze what came out. That said, I would be the first to admit that I remembered only what I needed to know to graduate and retained a chalk outline of the information in my brain once the dissertation was signed. But it generally helps me read research better and understand what was being done.
What remains of the chalk outline tells me that regression analysis is something you do when you have a bunch of numbers you’re trying to tease out the most significant factor that makes them different from each other. Why do some kids drop out of college and others succeed? Is it money? IQ? Parental support? Social skills on campus? etc. And of course identifying the primary cause is important because you want to use that in making future decisions down the line. So when a friend of a friend in the field of social stats for medication offered to work with the county portion of our depredation stats I was very excited.

This is what he wrote at the time:

I used the square miles to predict the expected # of permits for each county, bases on the square miles of water. Then I looked at the actual number of permits, and calculated a ratio of the two. You have one county that is clearly an outlier – Placer. This country issued almost 7 times as many permits as expected.

So yesterday I spoke to the Board of Supervisors of the outliers in question. The county chambers were high tech – there were four large wall screens and the entire meeting was streamed to Tahoe where it aired live with participants. There were two computer/media guys on hand to make sure everything ran smoothly and two women taking notes up front.
The Commissioners filed into their seats on the dais and the meeting started a little after nine. There was an award for a stalwart Rosie the riveter airline mechanic who had worked for years and years at the historic society, and then several multi-million dollar contracts were approved for snow plow equipment and police squad cars. You really got the impression that this was a county with discretionary funds.
And then there was me and beavers.
A CDFW supervisor from Tahoe introduced me and then Jack Sanchez from SARSAS added a nice introduction as well.

“Heidi has become the nation’s foremost beaver specialist as a result of a beaver family moving into Martinez Creek in front of a Starbuck’s and producing kits. She started Worth A Dam and has spread the beneficial aspects of beavers in waterways worldwide.
“Because Placer County allowed housing development too close to its waterways, an adversarial relationship has developed with beavers. I believe if the English, Russians and beaver trappers had not exterminated beavers in Ca in 18th and 19th centuries, we would have no need for our Rim Dams, Shasta, Folsom and Oroville.
I present with great pleasure Dr. Heidi Perryman to talk about beavers.”

My talk went as it was supposed to, and everything worked the way it was supposed to. The four screens displayed my slides which were also streamed in Tahoe. And even without video and the last minute surprise I think the message really got across. When it was over several commissioners asked questions and repeated the phrase “Seven times more” with horror. I really had the impression that the talk registered with them and left a mark. Vice chair Jennifer Montgomery even said she remembered our friends at the Sierra Wildlife Coalition in Tahoe saying something similar years ago when the beavers were killed at Kings Beach.

When I left the meeting I was followed out by the CDFW man who thanked me for an excellent presentation and talked about how they had made a mistake in Tahoe years ago because they didn’t understand and now knew better, and a reporter for the Auburn Journal newspaper who wanted to talk about 7 times more and ask about mosquitoes.

Jack and his wife came to say what a good presentation it was and so did one of is board members. They had already scheduled a private meeting tomorrow with one of the commissioners to follow up!

Honestly, we floated home feeling that we had really done something useful. I thought about Robin from Napa getting the PRA in first place so we could analyze the data, and Jon and I slogging through all those grizzly permits, and me writing my grad school friend in a panic about the data, and her asking her friend from Infometrics who generously donated his time and my meeting Jack when I presented at the salmon conference in Santa Barbara, and us all collaborating to prove that beaver belonged in the sierras, and I really felt like all the piano strings had pulled in just the right way to make this happen.

Afterwards Commissioner Jim Holmes sent me this very nice note.

“Dear Dr. Perryman, Thank you so much for your very informative presentation on Urban Beavers. It gave me a wonderful overall picture of the importance of beavers in our ecosystem”.

The recorded meeting should be available soon, and in the meantime I am definitely very aware of the step they took forward and the role we played in making that happen. Sometimes I think what I like best of all about this beaver chapter of my life is the self-guiding interdependence of it – weaving the help of friends into a creation of my own imagining without anyone telling me what I should do and letting that make a difference


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