Back to the CLM

Hello again, CLM.

While there are no visible changes, it feels good to be back as a CLM intern after a two month hiatus. During which, I was emergency hired as a real-life BLM employee in order to work extended hours on the lengthy Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation (ESR) process. Collecting seed and monitoring special status plants quickly shifted to making maps and isolating future seeding sites with GIS. After the hubbub of the emergency planning calmed down, office work thankfully turned to field verifying potential drill seeding locations. While most would not think it difficult to locate 5,000 acres of drill-seedable land in a 315,000 acre burn, taking a few steps in our field office quickly makes you aware of the challenges. Merely calling our land rocky would be a rude and insensitive statement, undermining the truly vast network of rough, jagged, and seemingly endless expanses of basalt.

The selection of seeding sites went roughly like this:

First, areas of high elevation and minimal slope were selected in the office using GIS. These sites were chosen in order to prioritize locations with the greatest potential of fending off that nasty cheat grass, while also providing the greatest probability of successful seedling establishment. Sites were further isolated based on the accessibility of a rangeland drill, which you can imagine as an agricultural seeding tractor, souped-up for planting on the moon. Next, came the fun part of driving around in a UTV (again, think lunar golf cart) to examine the predetermined areas and decide if our astral tractor would indeed be able to safely traverse the rough and varied landscape that is the Eagle Lake Field Office. Although rather bouncy, the realization that my job required me to partake in an activity which civilians would, and often do, shell out hundreds if not thousands of dollars for, was quite comforting. At that moment, I was cognizant of how awesome my job really is. I also took solace in the fact that this fun was not being had purely for visceral enjoyment, but in order to stabilize soil, mitigate invasive species expansion, and rehabilitate habitat for a nearly federally listed species. Did I mention the snow and subsequent mud? No? Well that was awesome too. Furthermore, once the field-verified locations were GPS’d, the sites were ready for the contracted team of archeologists to start surveying the 5,000 acres. That is a group of passionate individuals whose jobs I certainly do not covet.

This leaves us at the current state of the drill seeding endeavor. Once the first patches of land are cleared by the surveyors, the actual drill seeding will begin. Although delayed from when it would have been ideal to start seeding, this IS the time in the high desert to initiate seed dispersal. The new appearance of moisture to the landscape allows for seed propagation and initial root development. The ephemeral blankets of snow provide both cover from wind erosion and albeit brief, reoccurring periods of soil saturation.

The multitude of factors contributing to such a seemingly minor endeavor makes the entire process lengthy. However, these steps appear necessary to ensure that the multiple resources are managed properly.

In addition to work, personal life has been great as well. Weekends have been punctuated by lengthy trips to Yosemite, Tahoe and South Eastern Oregon, during which I have enjoyed hiking, climbing, caving and camping. All of this really makes a kid from the Midwest truly thankful for our country’s varied landscape. Never stop the adventure.



The Home Stretch

With only two weeks left of my internship here in Miles City, Montana I’m overwhelmed with the dauting to-do list in front of me. Top priority – collect Baker sagebrush until my fingers freeze off. Our goal was a lofty 120 pounds of rough picked seed, equated approximately 60 pounds of clean seed. After spending five days out there picking with 2-4 other people helping me, we still only have 35 pounds of rough picked seed. However, that’s okay, we’ve been working our butts off and everyone is still proud of the amount of seed we’ve be able to pick. The sagebrush in Baker is small and scrubby and grows surprising well in that area which has been affected by oil and gas development. Though we might not of met our goal of 60 lbs of clean seed by collecting in Baker (as opposed to collecting at other sites nearby with bigger more robust sagebrush) I truly believe that what we collected will grow better because it is what is found in that area. I’d especially like to thank the guys on the fire crew who were out there helping me!!! Couldn’t of done it without you!

Aside from sagebrush, I still have to get out and collect Prairie Cordgrass (which is what I’m planning on doing today) and work on mounting herbarium specimens, writing the annual report and updating program information, and hopefully creating a database for all of last year’s and this year’s data. So much to do and so little time! The next two weeks are going to fly by.

Additionally, I have the office Christmas party and two upcoming job interviews to look forward too. My time here has been wonderful and I’d like to thank everyone here at the field office for making that happen. I have learned so much and really feel much more focused on where I would like my career to eventually head. Thanks again Miles City!!!

Here’s to the future and the opportunity to climb many more moutains!!!…um or hills!

Home Sweet Carlsbad

The Jolly Green Giant

My work uniform on Halloween at BLM Carlsbad.

Sitting at a plastic table in an airplane hangar and eating my plate of barbecue, I looked around and thought about my place at the BLM. All around me were firefighters, ranchers, contractors, pilots, politicians, movers, shakers, and BLMers from all levels of the agency. BLM New Mexico was celebrating the two millionth acre treated under the Restore New Mexico program, and it was a perfect closing for my internship in Carlsbad. I was a grunt-level contributor, spraying weeds and observing aerial treatments. As such, I didn’t appreciate the scale of our project until then. Over an area bigger than Delaware, the grasslands were producing grass again.
If I had worked anywhere but Carlsbad, this would not be my closing memory. Many factors made two million acres possible, not least of which was collaboration with partners from beyond the BLM. Popping in through the CLM program, I guess I’m one such partner, a small one. But a coalition of small partners galvanized by big personalities can do big things.
I end this internship oozing with institutional pride. I hear Carlsbad praised over and over again for its efficiency, thanks to its use of technology and to its extra-agency relationships. When managing multiple uses goes smoothly, it frees the BLM here to play a proactive role. The Restore New Mexico program and the promise of being “a steward of the land” is what fuel my plans to return to the BLM.
I felt at home with the BLM in Carlsbad. Any time I needed help, or information, or guidance, or a vehicle it felt natural to go to the right person and ask. I could expect them to listen and help me out. Despite their different outlooks and responsibilities everyone was my teammate. On Halloween, our team’s uniform included an outfit for the office costume contest. I cemented my sense of belonging when I stepped up as the Jolly Green Giant to receive the winning prize. I am so, so thankful for the CLM program, without which I would never have made it to this part of the world, never cruised through the sand with the windows down, never learned my desert grasses, never painted oil pads with blue with herbicide, and never worn green face paint to work.

Memoirs of a CLM Intern–Part 10: The Little Things & Other Perks

In addition to the valuable career experience gained through the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Conservation and Land Management (CLM) Internship Program, there are plenty of good times to be had as a CLM intern! Besides the variety of activity and scenery (certainly all the field locations but also at your desk in the office), a conservation and land management career may offer several other types of benefits and perks.

TOURIST MOMENT. What initially appeared to me to be an old, run-down homestead near an SOS seed collection site is actually a movie set from Memoirs of a Geisha. (Yes, this inspired the title for this series of blogs!)

A moment as a tourist–a movie set from Memoirs of a Geisha on BLM land

LUNCH BY THE RIVER. The South Fork of the American River runs just north of Pine Hill Preserve before it flows into the Folsom Lake reservoir. Our SOS seed collection efforts has brought us to sites near the river, providing a lovely setting for a lunch break.

Mokelumne River near Big Bar

South Fork American River at Dave Moore Nature Area

SWEET TREATS. And after lunch, a craving for something sweet may be satisfied with a simple dessert prepared by nature. Who can refuse a handful of grapes or blackberries!? Note: these delectable dishes are available in season only.

Sweet treats in the field (grapes in this photo, but also blackberries)

MIXING BUSINESS WITH PLEASURE. As an intern, sometimes I have the opportunity to assist people other than my mentor within the BLM office. My mentor is the manager of a rare plant preserve so we focus on botany-related land management and conservation. However, I have also surveyed for the federally endangered red-legged frog and participated in bird counts at the Cosumnes River Preserve with wildlife biologists, painted a vandalized restroom and stained bridges in a nature area with a maintenance worker, and served in the role of public relations when the fuels management team conducted a prescribed burn of brush piles at the Pine Hill Preserve. Although all of these were enjoyable, the pinnacle of mixing business with pleasure involved rafting down the South Fork American River with the recreation planner and another CLM intern to deliver toilet paper and cleaning supplies to the restrooms along part of the river before a busy Memorial Day weekend.

South Fork American River through Cronan Ranch near where we delivered t.p. and cleaning supplies to toilet facilities…and stopped for lunch 🙂

Mouth of the South Fork American River where our rafting adventure ended

THE LITTLE THINGS. What life is made of, what keeps life going. Little in terms of small physical size. Little in terms of a short amount of time. Little in terms of its seeming significance in this gigantic world. Little in terms of minimal numbers in existence…these are all truly “rare” treasures.

Flower of Bisbee Peak rush-rose (listed as a Review List species by the California Native Plant Society)

Pollinator on a blooming Pine Hill ceanothus (federally endangered)

Young Red Hills soaproot (federally endangered) and a stalk of last year’s growth

Little red bug on El Dorado bedstraw (federally endangered)

Stebbins’ morning-glory (federally endangered) displays its unique narrow, spindly, finger-like leaves

Insect on Layne’s butterweed (federally threatened); Lemmon’s ceanothus in the background

Bee on Pine Hill flannelbush (federally endangered)

An inchworm (???) among the disk flowers of El Dorado mule-ears (listed as rare by the California Native Plant Society)