Life in the Valley of Surprise!

Starting a new job often comes with a mixed bag of emotions including excitement, fear, determination, and anxiety. I personally experienced all of these emotions and more prior to starting my CLM internship in Cedarville, CA. I was nervous about the job, as well as moving to a new place where I knew no one. Of course it is natural to have these feelings but at times they seemed overwhelming. However, taking a leap of faith, and concurring my emotions has made me into a stronger person. Each time I leave my comfort zone and try something new, I am rewarded with new skills, more confidence and new life experiences.

When I arrived to Cedarville, I new it was going to be a new way of living and would take some getting used to. The town has a population of roughly 400, there is one grocery store, one gas station, and I do not have any cellphone service. A remote location such as this may not be for everyone however, one month has passed and I have come to love it here. It is quietly tucked away in a valley surrounded by beautiful mountain ranges with ample opportunities for outdoor recreation. Enough said about Cedarville. Let me tell you what I have been up to at the Bureau of Land Management.

The Surprise Valley field office in Cedarville manages over a million acres of land, straddling the border of northeastern california and northwestern nevada. The majority of the land is considered sage-steppe ecosystem and is important habitat for many wildlife species including the greater sage-grouse. Populations of this ground dwelling bird are currently in decline due to habitat destruction and fragmentation. As a result, restoring the sage-grouse habitat has become a main focus of the Surprise Valley BLM.

One cause of habitat destruction comes from encroachment of western juniper trees (Juniperus occidentalis). Due to a reduction of wildland fires, juniper trees have expanded their territory significantly, encroaching on the sage-steppe ecosystem. Western juniper absorbs a high volume of water, and competes with native vegetation for resources. Part of the sage-steppe ecosystem restoration strategy is to reduce juniper encroachment using a variety of treatments. This project will include both pre-treatment and post-treatment vegetation monitoring. What I have been doing for the past few weeks is establishing pre-treatment vegetation monitoring plots and collecting data.

Jumping right into this project on my first day of work was challenging. I had to learn the protocol on the spot and learn a long list of plants that were unfamiliar to me in a short period of time. However, it has been a valuable learning experience so far and I am certain that my knowledge and skills will continue to progress as more time goes by.

Vegetation monitoring has taken up the bulk of my time however, there have been a few opportunities to get involved with other projects. For starters, I have been scouting out sites to collect seeds for the Seeds of Success program. This has been a challenge due to the ongoing drought in the area. Forbs are especially difficult to find. I also spent a day planting basin wildrye (Leymus cinereus) starts that were grown by local high school students using seeds that were collected by a previous CLM intern. Lastly, I was able to go along with my mentor to install game cameras at two bighorn sheep guzzlers. Afterwards we used radio telemetry to track down the bighorn sheep that were released several years ago. With some patience, we spotted four bighorn sheep having a lazy day on the side of a ridge. On the drive back to the office, we came across a Golden Eagles nest holding this bundle of joy:



Until next time,

Amy Thorson

BLM Surprise Valley

Cedarville, CA




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