BLM: Phoenix District Office, Lower Sonoran Range Tech under direction of Andrea Felton
I wake up early to a new morning filled with the sounds of cooing Mourning Doves, Curve-Billed Thrashers, and Gila woodpeckers. As soon as I step outside, I realize how different my life will be away from the humid Gulf of Mexico breeze and smell of a fresh cut lawn. The Phoenix Valley yards are comprised of local rock and any vegetation consists of standing dead plant matter, litter, or succulent (which slowly is exhibiting characteristics of necrosis/disease due to dehydration and suppressed immune system defenses). Media sources retort Phoenix as having a “dry heat” – which means you’re either nearly suffocating on the dry clay particle-filled breeze, or because you’ve run out of water and succumbed to heat exhaustion. I am not sure if I would be glad to trade it for the high humidity in Houston for I often feel like a dried up raisin after a long days work.
The BLM Arizona administers 12.2 million surface acres of public lands, and another 17.5 million subsurface acres within the state. Honestly, I can’t say I have met a more cordial, cooperative group of knowledgeable individuals committed to multiple-use land management. The BLM field offices have their work cut out for them considering:
1) the amount of law suits posed upon their efforts to emphasize conservation (restoration where it is warranted) of threatened/endangered endemics and preserving biodiversity historic to each ecological site of the allotment region;
2) the vast amount of terrain that the district must survey, diagnose utilization threats to the local flora, and then administer carefully the most efficient measure of control; and finally
3) limited personnel to actually perform the work.
The Phoenix BLM is making great headway into appeasing the public, permittees, and environmentally-minded professionals.
During my first 2 months in Phoenix, I have refreshed and refined my basic monitoring and navigation techniques, at times employing the use of alien equipment (Trimble Juno 3 instead of the familiar Garmin ETrex). I am reminded by my superiors that I have only scratched the surface of all the rangeland management projects that I will be taking part of. So far, I have participated in MIMS and AIM surveying/monitoring techniques and have been surprised at the amount of detail we are capturing from environmental signatures across the Arizona landscape to use in protecting Arizona Chub habitat or grazing allotments from degradation of biotic diversity. Apart from the long hours in the field, my fellow interns/housemates and I have found time to hike and camp at Sonoran Desert Preserve, and state parks in Cave Creek, Sedona, and the Tonto National Forest (i.e. Red Rock State Park, Slide Rock State Park, Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Cave Creek Regional Park, and many more).
I am grateful to all who work with the CLM Program at the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Phoenix BLM for the opportunity to relocate, make life-lasting friendships, and allow me to be a part of sustaining the habitats within the BLM lands in the Phoenix District of Arizona.