When I first arrived at my CLM internship at the BLM in Grand Junction, CO – I knew very little about the BLM and how public land is managed for multi-use. I came from the Blue Ridge Mountains, and was now surrounded by unfamiliar plants and a very different ecosystem. However, I had the unique opportunity to work with two experienced professionals in the field each day, rather than fellow seasonals. Harley Metz and John Toolen are very familiar with the western slope and were happy to answer the thousands of questions that I had. I learned how GJFO manages its land to support so many uses and conservation initiatives, which seed species are planted following a fire, what the most palatable forage species for cattle are, and the mechanical techniques that were used to remove Pinyon-Juniper encroachment to improve Sage-Grouse habitat. More importantly, I now understand that the field office is still learning how to combat certain issues, like how to eradicate Cheatgrass is such a dry environment. While I would like to say that I left my internship with a sense of conclusion and understanding of land management in the desert, I am actually leaving with even more questions and a desire to return to Colorado to learn more.
Although the primary focus of my internship was conducting Land Health Assessments, I also participated in a variety of fieldwork. I chased after a ridiculously-fast graduate student and learned to use radio-telemetry to track radio-collared desert bighorn sheep. I hiked in the Piceance Basin, one of the largest natural gas reserves in the country, to search for rare Phacelia habitat. I also accompanied the botanists and CLM interns from Colorado State Office to survey for Penstemon debilis and later to collect Artemesia frigada seeds. But probably the most exciting for me was visiting a recent wildfire with the BAER team and monitoring the vegetation post-fire.
On that note, my next adventure leads me to the Sandhill Crane NWR on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi where I will work as a Fire Ecology Intern. I will be monitoring fire-effects and conducting prescribed burns. While I am sad to leave the western slope, I am really excited about this next adventure. I have learned a lot about working for a federal agency, and by working with people in different stages of their careers, I have a new found sense of direction about my own. Working as a CLM intern was an incredible experience, and I am so grateful that I had this opportunity.
Grand Junction, CO
The beautiful western slope.
- Canyonlands, UT: It’s incredible! Go there!
It’s autumn and can’t believe that my internship is over in just a few weeks! This last month has gone by so fast.
Last week, I got to re-visit the Pine Ridge fire, which burned in mid-July, to monitor the veg regeneration. It was really cool to see how much the site has progressed since the first post-fire visit I went on with the BAER team. Monitoring fire effects at the Pine Ridge site has really helped put into perspective the older wildfire sites I visited this summer while conducting rangeland health assessments. It’s incredible to see a burned site ten or so years later and realize how many of the grass species present are there because of a post-rehabilitation treatment, and how long regeneration really takes. I had no previous experience with wildfires, but this summer has definitely sparked an interest in fire ecology.
Coming from the East, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Colorado Plateau. Now that I’ve been here for three months, I’ve gotten to explore the epic landscape and familiarize myself with the flora and fauna of canyon country.
I remember my first field day when I saw sagebrush and tamarisk for the first time and wasn’t quite sure what they were. As I am approaching the end of my internship, I am able to see how much I’ve learned about this ecosystem and have fallen in love with Colorado (which, considering there are so many beautiful outdoors activities within a few hour radius…is not hard!).
I have really enjoyed my work as a range technician. The focus of my internship has been evaluating the health of BLM land. We look at soil, erosion, and vegetation, as well as the potential of the land the provide habitat for the Gunnison Sage Grouse. I’ve gotten to collaborate with the range staff and ecologists and have learned so much about how the BLM manages for livestock and grouse.
Glade Park Assessment.
Fawn sleeping in the sagebrush.
I’ve also accompanied other biologists in the field and learned about rare plant surveys, bighorn sheep radio-telemetry, and fire-effects monitoring.
I learned to identify a lot of new plants. I had no previous experience identifying grasses in such a dry climate—so I’m always excited when I see one I know and it’s alive!
I have also gotten to enjoy and explore Colorado.
I’m sure that you all appreciating this experience as well, but I am so grateful for this opportunity. I love this job and the chance to work with such knowledgeable and passionate people. It’s hard to believe that my internship ends in less than two months. I’ll be sad to leave Grand Junction, but I’m excited for the next journey!