Well, it’s that time of year again. The end of summer where I finish up the majority of the exciting work for the year and begin to strategize about surviving another winter. As this field season comes to a close I’m left with nothing but positivity from this internship with the Vale, Oregon Bureau of Land Management. I was fortunate to have a helpful mentor who is passionate about conservation and botany, an intelligent and energetic co-worker, and all the diverse job experience I could ask for across the whole 5 million-acre district.
I figured that this final blog post would be a great opportunity to share some of my favorite pictures that I took during the internship so that you can see a little bit of what Eastern Oregon has to offer.
Our big blue pickup truck that we took into the field every day. It is pictured majestically hanging out in park at Leslie Gulch.
My favorite flower seen thus far in the high deserts of Eastern Oregon. Desert blazing star, Mentzelia laevicaulis.
One of our main SOS target species: Machaeranthera canescens.
A horned lizard found by the Owyhee River, looking sassy.
One of my favorite views of Leslie Gulch, taken from a bank of the Owyhee River. The truck is parked near the bottom of a boat ramp, which might give you an idea of how much water covers this area in the winter months.
One of the greatest moments of my life, pictured in a Gem Stop parking lot.
If I wrote about every great experience I had through my CLM internship I would have to make another blog post to fit it all. This summer has provided me with countless experiences to expand what I know about plants, animals, myself, the earth, and the many ways by which everything on it is connected. I am looking forward to taking everything that I learned here on to my next stop in life and continuing to let this knowledge grow. Best of luck to all my fellow interns that I got to meet in Chicago and to anyone else taking the time to read this. You are #1!
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 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
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.
View from Muddy Mountain