Liberals, Rednecks and Cowboys: Life in Burns BLM

Alvord Desert, Steens in the Backgorund

Alvord Desert, Steens in the Backgorund

It’s been about 5 weeks ish since I’ve moved from my home in Baltimore, Maryland to a small rural town in Burns, Oregon. The act of moving to Burns was hard at first since I basically packed my bags the night of graduation and flew here immediately, meaning I missed a lot of grad parties and celebrations with friends. However, I wouldn’t really have it any other way. I can honestly say I really adore life here in my double wide trailer and with my 3 other CLM intern roommates. I open my front door in the morning to donkeys Duncan and Fiona, and horses Chester and…. I forget the other one’s name. At night I have 2 pretty kitties that love to cuddle and be pet. I miss rain though.  It’s very hot and dry here, and now that its hitting over 100 during the day, there is no relief. In a way Burns is its own cultural immersion experience. Cowboy life is real here, the big brimmed hats, cowboy boots, rodeos and bull riders, and high-waisted wrangler jeans are legit and not just for fashion. I’ve seen cow brandings and got a taste of Rocky Mountain oysters. All that “organic”, “grass fed” beef you like so much? It’s bred out here on the range in this way that’s not necessarily meant to be environmentally friendly, but is more or less anyway. The cows frolic all day on the range. Be wary though, because if you hit one, you pay out $5,000 to the farmer.  Being a black girl moving from a city to  a small conservative town, I was not sure exactly what to expect in coming to Burns.  But let me tell you, everyone in this town is super friendly.  I have literally not met one mean boned person here. Also I learned the BLM doesn’t slaughter/cull horses, which is nice to know because that was my only impression of the organization before coming here.

Wild Horse Lake on the Steens

Wild Horse Lake on the Steens

By the end of my time here I shall be a botany goddess (at least when it come to identifying grasses of Oregon). So far my work has mainly been emergency stabilization and rehabilitation monitoring. In other words, I visit areas that have burned in the last few years and determine which plants (mostly perennials) have reestablished themselves. Sites vary from a decent mix of sagebrush and other natives to mostly invasive cheat grass. Sagebrush and high desert county are very different from the deciduous forests I grew up in, but I fancy the vastness of the range. I work 4/10s so 4 10hour work days a week.  This schedule is necessary, as it takes almost 2 hours to commute to any one field site. Actually, a 2 hour commute is generally a rule of thumb to get anywhere out side of Burns, thereby a 4/10s schedule is awesome because it also gives us 3 day weekends, which we have used to adventure to the steens, the city of Bend, and nearby lakes.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this snapchat of a CLMer’s life!

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-Jessica Macer

Burns BLM

 

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