By Heather Janssen

LINCOLN (CBS13) – A Placer County habitat in Lincoln has been restored, after once a major risk for wildfire. Beavers are to thank for it.

“The before and after of this project is so dramatic,” said Julia Boorinakis Harper, with Placer Land Trust. She said the area was once drained of water for farming.

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“We’re realizing that has long-term impacts,” Boorinakis Harper said. “You end up with a really dry, dusty floodplain which in California right now is not a good thing.”

Now after a few years, lush and green landscape is in its place thanks to Placer Land Trust teaming up with what they call “nature’s engineers”: beavers.

“They can work so much more efficiently and intuitively than we can. This is what they do,” Boorinakis Harper said.

Rather than turning to man-made machines, they let nature take the lead. The organization spent about $60,000 on the project instead of what would have been more than a million – especially saving on the cost of labor.

“They work for free and they do it really well,” Boorinakis Harper said.

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The ever-elusive creature can often be seen on trail cameras, hard at work – but is rarely captured by the naked eye.

“It’s incredibly rewarding for us,” said land manager, Elias Grant. To him, the move is worthwhile and two-fold, helping them and us by choosing to work with the beavers and not against them.

“We stopped removing them, and started supporting them and seeing the change,” Grant said. “Really the project came alive in one winter.”

Farmers now have grazing land, and an environment much safer from fire.

“They have a better chance of stopping it because of the moisture in the area,” Grant said.

The incredible transformation spans hundreds of acres – all thanks to the decision to ‘leave it to beaver.’

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The Placer Land Trust hopes their project can be an inspiration for others, too. Much like indigenous cultures once relied on, they said they’re ‘re-learning’ the best way to care for nature is through nature itself.

Heather Janssen