Things are beginning to wind down here in Dillon, although I still have some weeks left. I just finished my last seed collection. It seems appropriate that it was Mountain Big Sagebrush (Artemisia tridentate subsp. vaseyana), considering the species has characterized most of the landscape in our watershed.
Other happenings in our office: our range staff recently attended a Montana Range Tour hosted by the Madison Conservation District in Ennis. It was interesting to see land management agencies, conservation groups, and ranchers interact as we moved from site to site. While everyone was very friendly, there were moments of disagreement, particularly concerning grazing rotation and biological controls. The tension seemed to stem from the potential contradiction between anecdotal evidence and scientific support; bias exists in both. Still, the tour was fun and informative. The incredibly beautiful Madison valley helped distract from the tumultuous weather.
The range techs and I have recently started doing juniper surveys on reaches that will be treated next winter. This involves establishing 1/10 acre circular plots and measuring the diameter of each juniper at the root crown. The first reach was challenging. The brush was so thick that getting through the rose and ribes drew blood. By the second stream the procedure became rhythmic and much more enjoyable. The coffee stop we made along the highway undoubtedly helped.
In other news, I went to Yellowstone and was blown away. The park was amazing, as seen in the following unedited iphone photos.