Brand New

The end is finally here. When I started this venture in June, I had no idea that it would fly by so quickly and that I would grow so much.

Throughout this internship, I have witnessed myself become much more independent, more experienced, more confident, more thoughtful, and more informed about my personal interests and future career goals.

Some of my favorite memories and most rewarding experiences include:

National Trails Day, the second annual release of the black-footed ferret, National Public Lands Day and increasing accessibility at our Hogan and Luce Recreation Area, Great Dam Day, and of course the solar eclipse.

One of the finished camp sites at Hogan Reservoir. This project was probably the most challenging one. It required a ton of collaboration, equipment, materials and physical work. I am very happy that I got to contribute and be a part of it from start to finish.

Many of the projects I worked on this summer provided me with new skills such as installing signs and trail guides, installing bear boxes, installing fire rings, installing picnic tables, digging trenches and installing timbers to delineate campsites, installing livestock tanks, increasing recreation site accessibility to meet ADA/ABA requirements, mixing and pouring cement, and spreading and compacting gravel. I also learned how to use a variety of tools that I had never seen before. These include a post pounder, an auger, a chop saw, a sledge hammer, a Pulaski, a rock bar, a tamper, a gravel compacter, a york rake, a power washer, and the list goes on and on. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed using them all. Except for maybe the tamper when I accidentally tamped down on my toe. Ouch!

I wish I had taken advantage of working with our GIS Specialist a bit more because I hope to keep building on those skills in the future. However, I did gain many new experiences and skills working in the field that I never expected to learn.

Valuable Lessons I’ve Learned:

I am not a botanist, nor do I ever want to be.

Don’t be so hard on yourself, you’re doing the best you can. Learn to give yourself some credit and reflect on how far you’ve come.

There is something you can learn from everybody you meet.

You can’t please everyone, nor should you try. Some people aren’t going to like or understand the goal that you are trying to achieve, and that is okay.

As one door closes, another door opens…at the end of October, I will be taking over as the new Administrative Support Assistant for the BLM Cody Field Office. I am sad to end my CBG internship adventures, but I am very much looking forward to all of the new opportunities this position will bring now and in the future. I am also very excited to call Cody, WY my permanent home and continue exploring beautiful Wyoming and the Greater Yellowstone Area.

In the words of Tom Petty “you belong somewhere you feel free”. For me it’s Wyoming…for now 🙂

Melissa Higley

Recreation Intern

Bureau of Land Management ~ Cody Field Office



Life in the Fast Lane

The month of August has absolutely FLOWN by. There were times I desperately wanted it to slow down because I am not looking forward to the end of this internship (or having to leave the beautiful state of Wyoming). However, because the past month has been so jam-packed, I have had an absolute blast! Here’s a tiny glimpse of each of the events that made this month, and the entire summer so special…

Great Dam Day: On August 19th, the old road to the east entrance of Yellowstone was opened to the public. Different organizations in town positioned themselves along the road and set up informational booths. We had a BLM tent set up at each end of the road. One was a Leave No Trace station where kids could answer questions about the ethics of LNT and win prizes. The other booth had a trivia game (pictured below) with questions about the management and different aspects relating to public lands. The game was a big hit with visitors of all ages!

Here I am playing Your Public Lands Trivia Quest with a few visitors and my mentor’s kids 🙂

Eclipse: On August 21st, I traveled down to Thermopolis, WY with fellow CBG interns, Tyler Kerr and Hank Carlson, to see the Great American Eclipse within the range of 100% totality. After a short two hour drive, we pulled over alongside a horse pasture and hunkered down for event. As it got darker, we noticed the horses begin migrating to the other end of the pasture. When it started to get lighter again, the horses walked in a straight line towards a gate on the opposite end to wait for what I’m assuming they thought was going to be breakfast. The most common question I received after the eclipse was about how dark it got. My response was always along the lines of “not quite as dark as night time, but more like sunset…right after the sun has gone down behind the trees or mountains, but still lights up the sky a bit. That’s how it felt, only it was in the middle of the day which definitely felt strange! However, it was still an incredible experience and I can’t wait until the next time I can see an eclipse. The struggle was real as I tried to capture photos of the miraculous event, but here’s one I captured with my eclipse glasses positioned in front of my camera lense. Pretty neat!

Great American Eclipse 100% totality from Thermopolis, WY.

National Public Lands Day: On August 26th, we invited volunteers to join us in remodeling our Hogan and Luce Recreation Area. The goal of the project was to increase accessibility for visitors with disabilities. Together we assembled and installed 6 new picnic tables, 5 new bear boxes, and five new fire rings that are all ADA/ABA compliant. We also installed a boot brush station, refurbished and painted a damaged kiosk. Volunteers also helped to gather and remove over 1,000 pounds of trash from the site making it a cleaner site for all. Everyone was very enthusiastic, the weather could not have been better, and the results look great! NPLD Part II will come next month sometime where we will delineate the campsites and spread gravel to finish the project.

Volunteers and BLMers assembling ADA/ABA compliant picnic tables in celebration of National Public Lands Day

Volunteers and BLMers/CBG interns refurbishing and painting an informational kiosk in celebration of National Public Lands Day

Myself and fellow CBG intern, Hank Carlson, working together to size and cut a new backboard for the kiosk

The finished product! Not bad for a day’s work 🙂

Black-Footed Ferret Release: On August 28th, for the second time in history, black-footed ferrets were released on the Pitchfork Ranch in Meeteetse, WY. If you haven’t heard the success story of the black-footed ferret in Wyoming it goes like this. Circa 1987 a rancher’s dog brought him an animal he believed to be a black-footed ferret, which at the time was considered to be extinct. He brought it to the local vet and it was confirmed that it was indeed a black-footed ferret! He then decided to place a tracking device in the animal and release it in hopes of finding a larger colony. He had an extreme stroke of luck and the remaining animals were found and captured by the Game and Fish Department. After that, the animals were bred in captivity until the population was considered large enough to release a small portion of them. History was made when 35 were released for the first time last year. This year I had the incredible opportunity to attend the second ever release of black-footed ferrets in Wyoming. This year, 13 animals were released on the ranch. Over 60, excited community members from all over Park County attended the historic event, and a great time was had by all.The highlight was definitely when one of our BLM wildlife biologists got to release his very own ferret. It was a bit shy to come out at first, but after a nice juicy prairie dog leg was dropped into an active prairie dog hole, our little ferret hustled down that hole after it! Needless to say, life is about to get very interesting for the prairie dogs on Pitchfork Ranch.

One of the feisty black-footed ferrets released this year on the Pitchfork Ranch

The first ferret being released by the great grandchildren of the man who discovered the species was not extinct 35 years ago!

Beautiful night to release a few ferrets!

Melissa Higley

Recreation Intern

Bureau of Land Management ~ Cody Field Office


BLM’ll Make a Man Out of You

One of my goals this summer (as it usually is every summer) was to “get in better shape”. The plan was to be as active as possible in my free time, exploring the numerous mountain ranges around me. This way I would have fun “getting in shape”, and get to know the surrounding area at the same time. I have successfully hiked several of the mountains and locations on my list, but little did I know that I would be training during work hours as well.

During one field day, Hank and I set out with our supervisor and Outdoor Recreation Planner, Rick, to complete some much needed trail maintenance on our Four Bear Trail. Seeing as all of our field office’s UTVs were occupied for the day, we took a wheelbarrow from the yard and loaded it up with our (HEAVY!) equipment and took turns pushing it down the trail.

Fumbling awkwardly down the trail with heavy equipment, we soon gave up and redistributed our materials. Hank and I decided to carry the U-channel posts Mulan style while Rick pushed the wheelbarrow.

Ask me how many times I sang Mulan’s “I’ll make a man out of you” that day

In addition to building strength, I have learned how to use many new and interesting tools like a post pounder, an auger, a Pulaski, a rock bar, a chop saw, and countless others. I have also been to the hardware stores in town more times than I can remember.

Trying out our new gas-powered post pounder

Drilling holes with an auger is actually pretty fun


What has been memorable about learning to use these tools, though, is the patience, understanding, and willingness of my coworkers to teach me how to use them. What I also love, is that they encourage me to try new tools, and help me when I falter. This may not seem like a big deal for some. However, in my field office I am the only female on the recreation crew. This experience has been both frustrating and rewarding. Frustrating because I swear half the time we are on two separate wavelengths. The guys are always doing things the opposite way I would have done them. The result has been many misunderstandings, lots of learning from each other and finished results that we can all be proud of!

Here are a few cool projects we worked on throughout the month of August:

One of the livestock tanks we installed after the June fire melted the old ones. This project required a lot of team work, equipment and coordination to dig ditches, build a dam in a nearby creek, level the ground, set the tire, mix and pour the concrete, hook up and install the hardware to fill the tank with water, and attach a wildlife ramp for small critters that may fall into the tank.

A newly stained cabin on Carter Mountain. Not picture are the hundreds of angry horseflies found embedded in its walls. This project was easy to complete, but what was challenging was coordinating a two hour drive up the mountain on a newly opened “road” with all of our equipment needed for that day.

Newly installed trail marker on our Four Bear Trail. This project looks fairly simply, but required cutting, prepping and assembling the sign at our warehouse, hauling it two miles up the trail, and installing it with a nearly 50 lb. post pounder.

This experience has also been very rewarding because my coworkers continuously push me to grow in new ways, and empower me by treating me as an equal. With that being said, there are times where I am frustrated because I am not physically equal. I have always been strong “for a girl”. But there are times when my muscles tire far before any of theirs. And there are times I need help lifting the post pounder because its really heavy and I’m not tall enough to place it on top of the post. At first I was embarrassed in these situations because I didn’t want them to think less of me. But I am not a quitter by any means, and I would just keep trying. Soon I would surprise myself in what I was truly capable of.

I fully believe women can do anything men can do. But I have accepted that she may need to work harder in order to do it. This job has taught me that I am always up for that challenge if I have a strong support system. Thanks guys!

Melissa Higley

Recreation Intern

Bureau of Land Management ~ Cody Field Office

Oh, Give Me a Home Where the Buffalo Roam

So, here’s a fun fact about me: I am a descendant of Brewster M. Higley VI, who wrote the lyrics for “Home on the Range”. The song is about his Kansas home that he acquired land for through the Homestead Act of 1862. He then built a peaceful cabin overlooking the property, where he retreated during troublesome times.

Many times in my own life I have retreated into the wilderness to find peace and comfort. It wasn’t until I moved from Connecticut to Wyoming that I really understood his lyrics (below) , and marveled at similar western sites.

“Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam
Where the deer and the antelope play
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day”,

Everything about the West was foreign to me up until a month ago when I drove thousands of miles to get here. Throughout my journey, I experienced the landscape, the flora and fauna and the culture changing drastically as I traveled west. The landscape was dry and barren, antelope played in the sagebrush lowlands, and elk congregated on mountainous, snowy summits. Cows grazed freely on public lands, and people were friendlier. Everyone wanted to know how I was doing, where I was going, and what my story was. Needless to say, I didn’t meet a single person with a discouraging word to say. And the sky certainly is big and blue most days. All of these things were very different to me, but what was most shocking was how quickly it felt like home.

View of my new home from the top of Heart Mountain in Powell, WY

I quickly fell in love with the mountains all around me. I sought out adventure after adventure, and found that there was still so much to explore. And when I finally made it to Yellowstone, I felt how special it was to be where the buffalo roam. They are bigger than I ever could have imagined. When they get really close to the road, I still marvel at their sheer size. They are kind of adorable in a terrifying and majestic kind of way. But I am glad that the Wyoming state flag has their image on it, for their vast herds are one of Wyoming’s many treasures. And I am extremely thankful to be living where the buffalo roam freely.

A buffalo from my first trip into Yellowstone

While I do miss my family immensely, my next goal will be to find a job that will let me stay in the area longer so I can continue to explore Wyoming’s beauty while still working my way towards a more long term goal. That long term goal is finding a permanent job in an area I like, with people I like, doing something I enjoy. I am both loving and hating how vague that goal is at the moment.

Some days I feel like I know exactly what I’m doing, and other days I feel completely lost and often wonder, “what am I doing here?”.

Here’s what I have learned about what I’d like to do next:

-I would like to keep working in the field of environmental interpretation and recreation. I love connecting with the public and teaching them a bit of natural history wherever I may be. I also enjoy encouraging them to explore and recommending certain cites or activities in the area that would help them do so. I’ve been thinking about applying to a few park ranger positions, but I really don’t want to leave the area for awhile longer if I can help it. I love my field office, the location, the people, the management. However, at the end of my internship in 4 months, that may be enough time to move on and try living somewhere else for a bit. Luckily, that is quite easy to do with seasonal work.

Here’s what I’m still uncertain about:

-When I will go back to school and what for. Maybe being a park ranger will work out, maybe it won’t. If it doesn’t perhaps that will help me narrow down what I’d like to go back to school for and lead to a certain time frame as well.

At the end of the day, I know this is exactly where I need to be right now. And I feel very thankful to have this opportunity to work with wonderful people, in such a beautiful, fun area and learn about myself in the process.

Melissa Higley

Recreation Intern

Bureau of Land Management ~ Cody Field Office