December and January in Buffalo, WY is very different than the warmer months. The fast paced and long hour work days have almost disappeared. The new project administered to the last two remaining interns (Heather Bromberg and myself) is RIPS! RIPS is an abbreviation for Range Improvements. The basic overall concept is that we go out into the field (weather permitting) and “ground truth” the structures we find on the allotments. We “ground truth” with our GPS Trembles fence lines, stock tanks, reservoirs, pipelines, and any necessary improvements, animal fatalities, or repairs needed. The point of all of this is not only to make sure structures are in good repair, but also to make sure what we find on satellite imagery matches up correctly with what is actually out there in the great unknown of the wild west’s ranges.
Now you may be thinking, “Sara! There is snow on the ground! Is that safe to be out in?” Well, yes and no. Many factors go into if we decide to enter into the wilderness. 1: What is the temperature? If the temperature is well below freezing then the vehicles will be able to have enough traction and the ground will be frozen and hard enough to drive on. 2: How much snow is on the ground? If there is a little bit of snow, 2″ or less, and the first question is answered in favor, then yes we go out. 3: What does the field look like once we are on site? Push comes to shove and some days you just will never really know what the conditions are until you see them for yourself. If we reach a site, that both questions 1 and 2 were favorable for, but we see conditions are a little risky, we will not proceed. We will return to the office where plenty of data uploading and GIS research is always waiting.
On a different subject, thank you to CBG/CLM for providing us with paid holidays. Because of this, Heather has been able to see her family for the holidays, and I have been able to catch up on much needed sleep and my favorite past time of visiting the Grand Teton Mountains. Buffalo is a 6 hour drive from the Tetons. Some of you may think, “That is a long drive,” but once you live in Wyoming, “long drives” get the new term of “down the road.” Basically, you get used to driving for a long time, everyday or so, just for work. So 6 hours of driving on holidays is just another day of driving you would do for the office. My mind and perspective has been greatly expanded since living in Wyoming. In Tennessee, a 20 minute drive would take you past 3 Walmart shopping centers, here, the closest Walmart is 40 minutes away.
I hope everyone had a happy new year! I have big plans for 2015 and hope I reach my goals before this time next year.