My last month working for the BLM in Casper, WY has been very busy and productive. There has certainly been less field work, but the small amount that I have done has been important and rewarding. I helped prepare a five-acre section of land for native sagebrush planting and restoration; I also performed wildlife surveys for proposed forestry projects and evaluated areas for prescribed burns and herbicide treatments. These projects allowed me to become involved with the decision making process that occurs before any large conservation action initiated by the BLM.
Most of my time was spent preparing a report on all cheatgrass herbicide treatments and the vegetation monitoring that has been done to evaluate the ecosystem’s response to these treatments. This project required me to create maps of specific grazing allotments with layers displaying the areas and years of cheatgrass treatments, along with the locations of every permanent vegetation monitoring transects. I then used the Access database to summarize cheatgrass percent cover from any monitoring transect located within the treatment areas. At that point I could use R to visualize the behavior of cheatgrass cover before and after the treatments. I submitted the report to my mentor and it has been adopted by resources as the living document at the field office to track all cheatgrass treatments and results. It was a very rewarding project and it allowed me to hone and develop skills gained both from working with the BLM and my education.
Looking back, I believe that this CLM internship has been one of the most productive and career defining experiences of my life so far. I was able to get a comprehensive view of the workings of a BLM field office and gain hands-on work experience as a wildlife biologist, botanist, and many other valuable disciplines within the conservation field. I leave the BLM feeling very confident that I chose the correct career path, and would happily work for the BLM full time.
One of the most valuable things I take away from this internship is a much more complete understanding of regulatory actions (such as NEPA, ESA, BGEPA, etc.) and how they influence human development, conservation actions, and management of public land. The BLMs mission to manage land for “multiple-use” often means reviewing development plans and taking action to mitigate ecological damage. This idea may take some getting used to for the traditional conservationists among us, but after experiencing the process first hand, it is a very rewarding and ecologically beneficial practice. It was also refreshing and encouraging to find that land management professionals of many different beliefs and personal philosophies find public land conservation to be important and worthwhile.
In addition to affirming my drive to work in conservation and land management, this internship also gave me the skills needed to be successful in that profession. I was able to dip my toes into an incredible variety of management disciplines, from wildlife and archaeology to inspecting coal mines. I received on-the-job training in activities from GPS devices, to plant ID, to GIS analysis, to skid steer operation, to many other valuable skills. I feel significantly more confident in my professional abilities and in applying to career positions. Ultimately, this internship has provided me with an amazing foundation on which to build my career as a conservation professional, and I would recommend this experience to anyone thinking about pursuing a career in conservation.