When I first arrived at my CLM internship at the BLM in Grand Junction, CO – I knew very little about the BLM and how public land is managed for multi-use. I came from the Blue Ridge Mountains, and was now surrounded by unfamiliar plants and a very different ecosystem. However, I had the unique opportunity to work with two experienced professionals in the field each day, rather than fellow seasonals. Harley Metz and John Toolen are very familiar with the western slope and were happy to answer the thousands of questions that I had. I learned how GJFO manages its land to support so many uses and conservation initiatives, which seed species are planted following a fire, what the most palatable forage species for cattle are, and the mechanical techniques that were used to remove Pinyon-Juniper encroachment to improve Sage-Grouse habitat. More importantly, I now understand that the field office is still learning how to combat certain issues, like how to eradicate Cheatgrass is such a dry environment. While I would like to say that I left my internship with a sense of conclusion and understanding of land management in the desert, I am actually leaving with even more questions and a desire to return to Colorado to learn more.
Although the primary focus of my internship was conducting Land Health Assessments, I also participated in a variety of fieldwork. I chased after a ridiculously-fast graduate student and learned to use radio-telemetry to track radio-collared desert bighorn sheep. I hiked in the Piceance Basin, one of the largest natural gas reserves in the country, to search for rare Phacelia habitat. I also accompanied the botanists and CLM interns from Colorado State Office to survey for Penstemon debilis and later to collect Artemesia frigada seeds. But probably the most exciting for me was visiting a recent wildfire with the BAER team and monitoring the vegetation post-fire.
On that note, my next adventure leads me to the Sandhill Crane NWR on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi where I will work as a Fire Ecology Intern. I will be monitoring fire-effects and conducting prescribed burns. While I am sad to leave the western slope, I am really excited about this next adventure. I have learned a lot about working for a federal agency, and by working with people in different stages of their careers, I have a new found sense of direction about my own. Working as a CLM intern was an incredible experience, and I am so grateful that I had this opportunity.
Grand Junction, CO