The past month has been a hodgepodge of tasks. Its been kind of fun to do a bunch of different stuff. We finished TREND up and my co workers starting working on Ultization, which is looking at what areas of the range get the most use during grazing. Abby and I, however, went looking for some rare plants. Red wool plantain (Plantago eripoda) is a rare plantain that was found in the field office in the 1940s. It was fun to look for since its grows in wet areas, it was a nice change from the sage brush steppe grass. We were in a lot of areas dominated by Aspens and Willows. Unfortunately we could not find the plantain.
I also got to help Abby out with a Seeds of Success project. Yampa (Perideridia gairdneri) is a fairly common plant that is a staple crop of Western Native American Tribes. The roots were consumed and are similar to water chestnuts and the seeds were used as seasoning. Yampa was requested for collection because of its cultural importance. It grows in steam beds so we got out a map and the herbarium vouches and went looking. We were prepared for a hike and prepared to find dried up plants that were hard to ID. It turns out Yampa was still flowering and is in abundance in our field office. There was a large population about 20 feet from the road. We were not planning on collecting it this year because we thought it was done flowering, but now it has been added to the list!
After the Yampa adventure we spent a day looking for the Chatterbox Orchid (Epipatis gigantea) at a project site at Briggs Creek. Briggs Creek is an area where BLM land meets land owned by Idaho Power. The BLM in conjuncture with Idaho Power and US Fish and Wildlife Service is constructing an enclosure to protect two species of threatened and endangered snails. The Chatterbox orchid is a special status plant for the BLM. These plants are not threatened or endangered but can be rare or sensitive, sometimes endemic. The BLM has special protocol when projects occur in areas with special status plants. We were tasked with searching for the plant and doing a habitat assessment to determine how the project would affect the orchid. This was a really fun assignment. It was a little difficult since we haven’t done much riparian work, there were a lot of new plants, some that stumped the office. We got to work with the GIS specialist, who is a former CLM intern. She wanted to get out in the field. It was really great to hear how she got where she is and some of her experiences. I got the chance to do the write up, which was really great experience.
In addition to all these new projects we got to go caving! There are two interns from Geocorps of America which are sponsored by the Geological Society of America. There are a ton of caves in the field office because of the volcanic history of the area. We went into Chris’s Crystal Castle, Will’s Cave, and Teakettle. Teakettle is the most interesting because there is a skylight in the cave where a bunch of ferns are growing.
There are more interesting things to come! We are tagging monarch butterflies for Idaho Fish and Game and trying to find all the Range Improvement Projects in the allotments we did our earlier monitoring in. So stay tuned! Shout out to my awesome mentor Joannna!