Upon Arriving at my CLM Seeds of Success mentorship location in Rawlins, Wyoming, all I could see was sagebrush. Fat ones, skinny ones, low ones, tall ones- but all sagebrush. My thoughts were- “What forbs could I possibly find in this environment?” and “Gee, what a monotone, diversity-lacking ecosystem.”
After the first week of getting trained and acquainted with the field office, these thoughts quickly dissipated from my mind. Our Seeds of Success crew, consisting of me, my coworker Kyle, and mentors Frank and Ray, would set out on daily adventures in the field. Each day would (and continues to) hold exciting botanical explorations. Fields of yellow (Lomatium foeniculaceum), orange (Sphaeralcea coccinea), and purple (Astragalus spatulatus) would greet us with a warm embrace.
Finding these pops of color is something that I look forward to every day. When I think back to my initial feelings regarding this high desert ecosystem, I realize how wrong I actually was. Because this environment is so extreme, it harbors a great diversity of plants who have evolved to withstand its intensity. Knowing that these perennial plants go from highs of 100 degrees in the summers to lows of almost 40 degrees below zero in the winters, cultivates a feeling of respect and admiration.
In addition to the plants, I have also been exposed to the great diversity of landscapes and ecosystem types in the Rawlins Field Office District. We have focused most of our time in an area known as the “Red Desert.” Above ground there are many extremophile plants living in clay, saline soils. Below ground harbors rich deposits of oil and gas. It is because of the below ground mineral content that we spend our time in this area. One of Wyoming’s largest sources of income is energy production in the form of oil, gas or wind. With the production of this energy of course comes disturbance, and with this disturbance comes a need for reclamation. As a Seeds of Success team, we hope to gather seeds in order to assist with this reclamation process. I find that being able to see gas pads and other disturbances in a real-world setting gives me more of a drive to do what I do. Our country has a need for energy, making these disturbances nearly inevitable. At the Bureau of Land Management, it is our job to manage the land. Making sure that disturbances due to energy production are minimal and that the areas are reclaimed in order to restore habitat, are just a few modes of this management.
My first month as a Conservation and Land Management Intern has treated me extremely well. Each day holds new curiosities and treasures in all types of forms. From the land itself, to the sprinkled pops of color which are extremophile forbs, and the BLM. I look forward to what the rest of the season holds.