When I arrived in Santa Fe a cool mountain drizzle welcomed me with a much-needed car wash and the intoxicating smell of juniper and pinyon pine in the air. In an instance, I was convinced that it I would be here to stay. However, this rain did not seem to return. Months went by and I would soon learn about the realities of drought, fire restrictions, and of course, unhappy plants. This became the theme of my summer.
During this period of drought dormancy, I found community around Santa Fe and started learning the landscape. This began with my favorite BLM past time, drive by botany. At 60 miles an hour, my crew mate Sam would rattle off Latin name of plant skeletons that to me were just blurs on the side of the road, who knew this would prepare me for what was about to come.
Unlike my home in the Midwest, where April showers would bring May flowers, the Southwest created its own rule book and in order to survive species have to adapt to these ever-changing weather extremes. By late July, the rain finally arrived, but the desert is not gentle, and when it rains, it pores. On July 24, the monsoons arrived with 3.5 inches of rainfall in one delirious night; this night marked a turning point in our collection season. The high plateau landscape transformed overnight from brown to green with plants emerging from the sandy soils anywhere with a hint of moisture. Like the animals, our crew adapted to the weather of the Southwest to survive and we collected whatever we could get our hands on. Within a few weeks, my desk was buried in a mountain of seeds awaiting their journey to the Bend Extractory.
This season was riddled with many lessons about the resilience of desert plants, the challenges of ever increasingly unpredictable weather, the struggle of racing DOT mowers, and the search for annuals that seem to move miles in a season. If you get a chance to work with CLM you might not share these same experiences but you will walk away with a wealth of stories and experiences unique to your season. Working in the BLM New Mexico State Office presented a variety of opportunities to learn about careers in conservation and receive cross training in a variety of fields. Even if you do not gain something from working with a diverse group of professionals, there is never an absence of lessons to be gleaned from desert plants and the incredible ecosystems they live in.
Take care CLM,
Luke Knaggs Santa Fe BLM office