Ending in Casper, yet Continuing On

My experience as a Forestry Intern has been incredible. Its foundation was field based learning and on-the-ground experiences that quickly brought me up to speed with all things related to forest management. I now have countless fond memories of warm days spent in the Bighorn Mountains, the ever present rustle of aspen leaves in the fall, and even some days spend snowshoeing through timber stands and falling snow. My work was not only full of knowledge and learning, but also satisfying and enjoyable.

I had the ability to apply what I learned and was able to work directly with my mentor to ensure healthy forest development and to manage forest product sales. She taught me an incredible range of forest management techniques and practices, as well as guided me through their application. There was a healthy balance between working directly with my mentor and working independently, so that we could continue to tackle our ever-growing work load. We worked out of two field offices, and there was a lot of ground for us to cover in the Casper and Buffalo Field Offices, and an even greater number of tasks to complete each day. I worked to set-up and monitor public firewood sales as well as establish areas for contracted timber harvests. I helped establish new access routes and walked timber stands with contractors who will ultimately harvest and sell the timber. Due to the multiple uses of public lands under the Bureau of Land Management, I have collaborated with wildlife biologists, hydrologists, range specialists, archeologists, recreation specialists, and geologists to ensure forestry actions do not adversely affect the public lands as a whole.

This opportunity has allowed me to see all aspects of forestry, instead of merely focusing on one. My time as an intern has been an invaluable step in the development of my professional career. When I officially had the position, I have to admit, I did not know much about forestry. Over the past five months, however, I have grown and developed as a forester, and now have the confidence and skills to orchestrate forest management practices. When walking through a forest now, I think more about the stand health and density, age-class distribution, and possible access routes, with the mindset of a forester instead of just enjoying the scenery. I’ve developed a critical eye for forestry, thanks to the guidance from my mentor.

While my time in Casper has drawn to a close, the friends, experiences, and knowledge I have gained will continue with me wherever I venture next. Thank you Chicago Botanic Gardens for presenting this opportunity, and thanks to Cindy for taking me under her guidance and sharing her years of experience with me throughout my internship.

Autumn Encroaches Upon the Forest

The end of my CLM Internship is quickly approaching. With only three weeks left, all summer projects are drawing to a close. It’s incredible to see how much my confidence and knowledge has grown over the past four months in the field of forestry.

As I write this blogpost, I’m participating in my Alternative Training Opportunity. Due to fieldwork requirements in Casper, I was unable to attend the training put on by the Chicago Botanical Gardens. Fortunately, the Society of American Foresters has their annual meeting in the fall. As fieldwork slows down, I was able to spend a week and travel to Portland to meet with foresters and leaders in the industry from around the country.

This opportunity has giving me a wonderful pathway to network with a vast variety of individuals. I’ve been able to chat with fellow foresters, well established in the private sector, federal agency, or state department where they work. I’ve met timber consultants, small timber forest owners, policy makers, and professors conducting research related to forestry and forest ecology. It has been an incredible tool to begin to think about my next step following the CLM internship.

Additionally, I’ve had the chance to attend countless science and technology lectures, as well as discussion panels on a variety of forestry topics. I’ve heard about the complexities of conveying academic research to the forest industry as well as the general public, panels on how to manage the forests before the costly wildfires devastate the land, and a quantified analysis of the damage black bears do to privately owned timber stands. Quite the diverse range of topics in a short period of time, and I’ve still got two more days of the convention!

It’s sad to see my time as a CLM Intern drawing to a close. Fortunately, it is merely the start of a new phase in my life. I’ve been very lucky to gain the strong foundation and on the ground experiences I have as an intern. I am excited at the prospects of what is to come, and will always cherish my experience as an intern.

Forest Management 101

It’s quite strange to think that the field season is drawing to a close. The Bighorn Mountains have already seen their first snowfall for the season, which kept us out of the field for a day. As hunters begin to take to the woods, the days spent with boots on the ground are dwindling, and much is being done to prepare for the end of the fiscal year. Together with my mentor we must gathering and processing data, totaling sales, generating maps and writing reports, and the deadline is looming ever closer and closer.

Reflecting back on the field season, there are many non-forestry, yet still highly beneficial experiences I have had in the field with other specialists this season. I’ve been able to spend time with wildlife biologists, archeologists, and recreation specialists to both collaborate on projects as well as to see what they do on a daily basis. It’s incredible how so many unique aspects interplay in our Public Land System. The Bureau of Land Management is often termed a multiple use agency, and that’s no exaggeration.

One important realization came as I began thinking about the next steps I’ll be taking in my career after the CLM Internship. As I begin searching for jobs and contacting potential future employers, it’s incredible how specific some forestry jobs are. For instance, the BLM has one forester and one intern for two field offices in Wyoming, and we get to do everything related to the forests such as timber stand improvement projects, contract timber sales, public forest product sales, reconnaissance for future areas, manage disease and insect outbreaks, and take all the information gathered from the field back into the office.

If it were not for the CLM internship and the BLM, I’d only have been exposed to a small fraction of what it takes to manage a forest. This experience has been foundational in my development as a forester and land manager, and has given me the chance to both learn and practice the skills of a forester. I have not only learned a few skills to complete a small part of the forestry process, but I’ve been involved with the whole process from start to finish. Quite the education experience!

Mountain Top Meadow

My Home is back in the Trees

The Forests and I Keep on Growing

The Field Season is in full swing, and it’s not showing signs of slowing down. I am beginning to work independently several times a week, as well as interacting with other specialists and contractors. Shifting demands have created a workload that is different that earlier in the season, yet still provides countless opportunities for growth and learning, as well as benefiting the Bureau of Land Management and our public lands.

After the legwork early in the season to set up various forest product sales, now the task turns to ensuring contractors and public cutters are following the prescribed statements of work. I regularly visit with contractors on site to check any number of things such as stump height, burn pile placement, safety, and wellbeing as well as general progress. When dealing with public cutters, it often turns into a guessing game of whether or not they cut what they were supposed to. It is infrequent I have the chance to interact directly with public cutters, I merely can see what they have done and use that information to make clarifying changes in the future.

As the sales have now been set up and monitoring continues, my attention is beginning to shift towards forest management and the longevity of a healthy forest. Much of my time and attention has shifted to a track of land we call Pitch Pine, on Muddy Mountain. A meadow restoration project is underway, to facility a balanced ecosystem and create meadow habitat for various species. A species of great importance is the Sage Grouse, given special management concerns in the state of Wyoming. By designating tree islands for forest dwelling species, and opening the meadows by removing trees, a mosaic ecosystem will be created and give benefit to an even wider variety of species.

Today marks the halfway point in my internship, exactly. I’m sure it’s no coincidence I’ve found time to write a blogpost. While I can tell my learning curve is becoming less steep, it is none-the-less still gradually increasing. The main difference is that I have the time to begin perfecting and refining the skills I have learned.

Cascade in the Bighorn Mountains

Bighorn Mountain Skyline

Atop Gardener Mountain

Time to Keep on Foresting

As my initial trainings are over and I’m nearly brought up to speed with all things BLM and Forestry, it’s time for my daily tasks to switch from learning to doing. The focus has turned to applying what I have learned to help manage the forests surrounding Casper and Buffalo, Wyoming. Each city is home to its own unique mountain experience.

To the south of Casper, Wyoming, is the Laramie Mountain Range, where my time is spent predominantly on Muddy Mountain. Due to its proximity to the city, it is easily accessible and readily traveled by many. Recreation trails crisscross the mountain allowing easy access and two developed campgrounds have been established yet the natural beauty remains astonishing. I frequent the forest to monitor public fire wood sales, check the density of post and pole sale areas as well as designate new forest product sales. The trees of Muddy Mountain are in high demand, due to the proximity of Casper. This backyard mountain has even become a personal favorite weekend retreat.

In north central Wyoming, the Bighorn mountain range dominates the landscape. The peaks scrape the sky while the rolling meadows dance between. The landscape is incredible. It is serene, untouched, and nearly always vacant of human impact. Moose linger in the wetlands while signs of elk are abundant. My forestry routine is much the same as on Muddy Mountain, except the scale is immense. Because the public demand is not as great, I often work with contractors in the Bighorns as they are capable of finishing the jobs in a timely manner. Every moment spent in the Bighorn Mountains is a treat, oh what a wonderful place to call my office!

The field season is in high gear, and there is rarely a dull moment. Each day goes by quicker and quicker, as more and more is accomplished. While the immediate impacts of my work are difficult to see, the long term influence will surely benefit these great natural places for generations to come.

Cruising Timber

View from Muddy Mountain

Trees, in Wyoming?

While it may be tough to believe, there are in fact trees and forests in Wyoming. The state offers more than just range land and barren plains. When making a trip into the mountains, the trees are as abundant as the wildflowers and the forests are just as beautiful.

My mountains are the Big Horn Mountains and the Laramie Mountain Range. All of my time so far as been spent on Muddy Mountain, because many of the other forests are still cloaked with snow. In my short two weeks in Casper, Wyoming, I have already begun to cruise timber, mark trees, and prepare for a summer of forest management. I can now visually estimate a tree’s diameter at breast height to see if its good for a post or pole (2-6 inches) or timber (8+ inches). Every different piece of the forest has a use, and must be properly managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

And the Bureau has quite the task. Because the BLM manages public lands of the United States, a proper forest management plan is not always straightforward. They must balance recreation needs (hiking, biking, photography) with supplying goods to the public (hunting, wood products, range lands) while still preserving the natural ecosystems (animal habitat, ecosystem services, and health of a forest). With so many diverse goals, an interdisciplinary mindset is critical. I have had the opportunity to work with wildlife biologists, archaeologists, range specialists, as well as my forester mentor.

The first two weeks has been a wonderful crash course into what the entire summer will look like (hint, no two days will be the same!). I’m eager and excited for what new opportunities await me each day, and am incredibly appreciative for the chance to be a CLM Intern in 2018.

Here’s a glimpse of my office!

Forestry Intern

Casper Field Office

Bureau of Land Management