These will be my last few weeks as a CLM intern in Lakeview, Oregon, and I am so grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given through the CLM program.
Two years ago, the CLM internship program brought me from the chaos of Manhattan to the peaceful land of big sky in the northern great basin, to work in a BLM resource area the size of New Hampshire with the population 1/1000th of New York City. And I have loved every second of it. From my first cattle drive, and the first time I learned to identify a bunchgrass, I’ve been enamored with the high desert and with the public land management system in these wide open spaces. Being a CLM intern has widened both my interest in conservation and my career options in this field, and has given me a new home and a new sense of place in the Western United States.
From high desert paradise,
Since my last entry the field season has really picked up. We have started to camp and really started to pick up on plant id now that everything is starting to flower and seed out. I am really surprised at the amount of diversity there is in a desert. From a distance everything is sagebrush or PJ forest, but once you start to take a look the diversity it’s really incredible. It has really been challenging (and equally rewarding) to learn about these plants and really work on my botanical skills for ID’ing their characteristics. Each new plant is like a small mystery waiting to be solved; every characteristic is like a different clue and it’s great to have those light bulb moments where it all comes together and you know what the plant is (bonus points if you don’t have to use a key!).
Aside from normal field work, we attended a rangeland indicator health conference. It was really interesting to see what goes into evaluating rangeland health. There was some stuff I thought was subjective and it was difficult for me to understand and agree with everything, but overall it was a really good experience, and I came away with a better understanding of what goes into range work. The biggest take away was soil. I know very little about soil science, but after the conference I was really inspired to learn more.
So far the only downside to this internship has been the sequester. The restrictions due to budgets isn’t anything new and I know in every job there will be limited funds, but it is grossly apparent with the sequester. It is still fairly early in the field season, but I am curious to see if we are able to meet deadlines and collect the necessary data with the current restrictions in place. The worst part is that if the data isn’t collected, agencies will essentially be flying blind when making decisions which could really adversely affect the land and the people that enjoy and depend on it. I suppose it’s too early in the season for doom and gloom, but I am not optimistic about it.
For the past month, many of us in the Shoshone, ID field office have been busy and working hard to do Sage Grouse Habitat Assessments. Yesterday, my partner and I finished the last one. This inventory and analysis project has been not only a fantastic learning experience in the technical aspect of the project, but has given me the opportunity to work in numerous areas that probably few people get to see up close. Through all of this, I have been on mountain ridges overlooking huge lava flows that blanket the valley below to right down in the lava itself. Working in such a vast area and in so many different little ecotypes has allowed me to see such a wide variety of plant life. I am truly amazed at the amount of diversity that the high plains deserts have to offer. I came from a place in Minnesota that was on the border of the tall grass prairie and the deciduous forests. The plant life there is truly remarkable. Coming to the desert I had the mindset that there was not going to be any diversity in the plant life, if any forbes at all. I had a picture of sagebrush and dry earth blanketing the landscape, with a few stragglers clinging on to life in the slim hope of rain. To my joyful surprise, there is an abundance of forb diversity and an entire new set of flora for me to learn and experience. The desert has truly shown me some of the most stunning flowers that I have seen to date. I look forward to the coming months, with new projects to do, new country to see and new wonders to be exposed to. The summer just gets better and better.
Hello everybody! We are nearly finished with our second week working on the Seeds of Success program in Farmington New Mexico and it has been a wild ride. The first week consisted mostly of training and office days but we did get out in the field a couple of times where we were able to check out some of the plant species found here. One highlight of last week was getting the opportunity to assist one of the range management teams monitoring pasture sites that will be seeded in the fall. The canyons and rock formations we were able to see that day were absolutely amazing. A highlight of the second week, was playing plant CSI and investigating an area where someone had been stealing plants. As it turns out our sleuthing skills are a little rusty and no culprits were ever determined.
We have scouted out a few places we hope to make collections of plants, but still have many more to investigate. We are hoping to start collecting in a few weeks from some of the earlier succession plants but the lack of rain may not make it possible. We are keeping our fingers crossed.
This area is full of interesting places to explore from Chaco Canyon to the South, the desert to the west, and the San Juan Mountains to the North. There will be much to learn, see and explore in the short time we have the opportunity to live in this part of the world.
I apologize for the lack of pictures but there will be many more next post. Until next time!
Our first potential collection
As summer has finally arrived and flowers are in full bloom, I sit in my cube, updating the statewide Programmatic Biological Assessment for the threatened Colorado butterfly plant (Gaura neomexicana spp. Coloradensis) I was fortunate enough to go out with some US Fish and Wildlife Service employees to survey some riparian areas for the butterfly plant. Surveys are important for the plant, since it is only found in the southeast corner of Wyoming. As summer continues and areas dry up, riparian areas become very important to land uses such as grazing. Riparian areas often support many plants, wildlife, and livestock, which may have an impact on the species. Identifying these habitats and areas for conservation can help preserve the species.